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A Grounded Qualitative Analysis of the Effect of a Focus Group on Design Process in a Virtual Internship
International Journal of Engineering Education (2017)
  • Matthew R. Markovetz, University of Pittsburgh
  • Sean Sullivan, University of Pittsburgh
  • Renee M. Clark, University of Pittsburgh
  • Zachari Swiecki, University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • Golnaz Arastoopour Irgens, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • David W. Shaffer, University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • Naomi C. Chesler, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Cheryl A. Bodnar, Rowan University
A key component associated with the development of an entrepreneurial mindset is the ability to understand customer needs and consider this when developing a product. This study sought to understand whether the inclusion of a customer focus group as part of a virtual internship created any differences in the design processes of sophomore engineering students (114 students). The Nephrotex virtual internship requires that students design a dialysis membrane by optimizing a selection of four components: membrane polymer, polymerization process, processing surfactant, and carbon nanotube percentage. We found that sophomores who engaged in a focus group during the virtual internship Nephrotex showed (statistically) equal focus on cost versus technical measures of design performance during the focus group. Despite this, design cost was lower in the section that participated in a focus group, with no decrease in product quality. This indicates that customer voice may be an important factor in decreasing product cost. We also found that sophomore students prioritized their interviewing of customers within the focus group towards end users, such as the patient and nephrologist. Qualitative analysis of sophomore responses demonstrated that they found utility in the focus group (30% of participants) but did not necessarily believe that the customers had useful knowledge of the relevant design attributes (17% of participants). Such realizations may have contributed to the equivalent quality and decreased costs associated with the designs of sophomores who participated in a focus group.
  • virtual internships,
  • customer voice,
  • customer needs,
  • design process
Publication Date
Citation Information
Matthew R. Markovetz, Sean Sullivan, Renee M. Clark, Zachari Swiecki, et al.. "A Grounded Qualitative Analysis of the Effect of a Focus Group on Design Process in a Virtual Internship" International Journal of Engineering Education Vol. 33 Iss. 6(A) (2017) p. 1834 - 1841 ISSN: 0949-149X
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