# Then i ask the students to use the two sheets of

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Then, I ask the students to use the two sheets of paper to build a structure which will support the dictionaries for at least 30 seconds. The goal is to raise them as high as possible. At first, the students just stare down at the paper. None of them will make eye contact. Some ask about glue, tape, string, rubber bands. The answer is, two sheets of paper only. Finally someone asks about folding or crumpling the paper. The answer, of course, is try it. Once someone tries something, a sort of race is on. They quickly build and test structures. Many of the structures crumple. But failed structures offer lessons. Progress is swift, averaging about 3 1/2 inches every ten minutes, until all three dictionaries are resting 11 inches above the desk supported by nothing more than two sheets of paper. The students accomplish this rather remarkable feat using two tools that they have learned years before but may not have labeled: the ability to work in teams and a rational design process. Their process, our process, the design process, is at heart trial and error. By describing the pro- cess as trial and error, I mean to emphasize its experimental nature. While it is a trial-and-error process, it is by no means random. If we reverse the order placing error before trial, we can make a case that the error-trial model is very similar to a second model, the analysis-synthesis model. As a general rule the process proceeds from analysis to synthesis. However, this progression is not a two-step sequence. It is not one; two; done. Instead, it's more like one, two, one, two, one, two a continuing oscillation between two states, an oscillation between analysis and synthesis. An oscillation from error to trial to error to trial to error to trial.

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It might also be seen as a loop, where analysis leads to synthesis, which leads back to analysis. This model might be refined into a spiral leading ever closer to a target. The spiral and target suggest that each cycle moves the project closer to a goal. In their book, The Universal Traveler, Koberg and Bagnall expand the two-step analysis-synthesis model by adding a transforming middle step which they call definition. Para- phrasing the authors, In this step you size up thesituation and develop intentions or guidelines, I would add that you define what needs doing: You define the problem. This is key. It is a pivotal point. You might easily substitute converge, transform and diverge. The computer business, like most manu- facturing businesses, uses an analogous three-step model. The process begins with research, moves into development or engineering, and ends with production or manufacturing This model works well for engineering managers. Each step may require substantially different skills and thus different project teams. Each step may also represent a separate outlay of capital. Thus the steps can serve as major mile- stones in contracts. Because each step requires different resources, the project should receive management approval before moving from one step to the next.
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