Solution Based Problem Evolution and Problem Inception in Biologically Inspired Design
Helms, Michael E.
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Biologically inspired design is one of the most important movements in contemporary engineering design. The paradigm entails the use of biological systems as sources of ideas for the design of technological products. Thus, the paradigm, by definition, is based on cross-domain analogies. The movement is pulled by the growing need for sustainable development and pushed by the desire for creative design of innovative products. The design of wind turbine blades analogous to the tubercles on the fins of humpback whales is an illustrative example. Despite its many successes, the practice of biologically inspired design remains ad hoc, with little systematization of either the design processes or of biological knowledge from a design perspective. Transformation of biologically inspired design into a principled design methodology requires the development of computational models, methods and tools. In the other direction, biologically inspired design provides a rich context for developing new computational theories of design, analogy and creativity. To develop computational models and methods for biologically inspired design, we started with in situ cognitive studies of its practice. The results of these studies contained a surprise. While most design starts with a problem -- problem-driven design -- biologically inspired design often uses biological designs as analogues to identify and evolve design problems. We call this solution-based design. The goal of my Ph.D. work is to develop computational methods and tools for solution-based problem evolution and inception in biologically inspired design. My thesis is that solution-based problem evolution and inception emerge out of the interaction of three core elements: 1) knowledge schemas that designers use to represent design problems and solutions, 2) goal-based information processes for evolving design problems, and 3) performance-based information processes for generating new problems. I will evaluate this thesis through detailed analyses of case studies of biologically inspired design, as well as through development of interactive tools for aiding problem inception and evolution. I will assess the interactive tools by deploying them in Georgia Tech classes on biologically inspired design. I expect my thesis to make two main contributions. On one hand, it will develop computational methods and tools for solution-based biologically inspired design. On the other, it will build computational models of solution-based creative analogies.
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