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NSF Collaborative Research: Observing, Analyzing and Modeling Design-Team Problem-Decompositions in Facility Design


Erica Gralla (GWU)

Funding Agency 

National Science Foundation


Engineers work in teams to solve complex system design problems like determining the layout of a factory or medical facility. Many problems are too complex to be solved all at once, so engineers separate the problem into a set of subproblems and solve the smaller subproblems. Because this decomposition strategy affects the overall quality of the facility design, it is important that the teams use good decomposition strategies.

Herrmann will conduct fundamental research into how teams of engineers solve medical and factory facility design problems— an important class of system design problems—and how their strategies affect the performance of the facilities they design. The medical facilities being designed are points of dispensing medication to the public in a public health emergency.

The research team will identify the reasoning processes and problem decompositions used by design teams to solve facility design problems and generate hypotheses about which decompositions lead to better solutions. This in turn will enable future research on how to design better design processes.

This is a two-year, $150K NSF Collaborative Research grant.