Ecosystem for Learning and Team Design
Award last edited on: 7/7/2017

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Solicitation Topic Code

Principal Investigator
Baldur Steingrimsson

Company Information

Imagars LLC

2062 North West Thorncroft Drive Apartment 1214
Hillsboro, OR 97124
   (763) 439-6905
Location: Single
Congr. District: 01
County: Washington

Phase I

Contract Number: 1447395
Start Date: 1/1/2015    Completed: 6/30/2015
Phase I year
Phase I Amount
This SBIR Phase I project seeks to develop an innovative software prototype that uses pages out of electronic design (e-design) notebooks to automatically assess design activities from all the five stages of the design process (requirements modeling, functional modeling, concept design, embodiment design, and detailed design). The e-design notebooks are generated using tablets, or convertible laptops, which the designers receive, or bring, at the beginning of a design project, to do all of their design work on. This software will impact the way engineering design is taught, and thus contribute to the training of strong engineering workforce, by allowing instructors, mentors or supervisors to assess performance of students or design engineers with less subjectivity and on a continual basis. In industry, the tool can be used to ensure efficient compliance with internal design processes (minimize the chance of design pitfalls), and teach effective design techniques, leading to productivity enhancements that contribute to increased competiveness, higher quality, and shorter time-to-market. The company expects to grow the annual revenues to at least $11,000,000 in six years, by offering the design ecosystem stand-alone or by licensing its assessment engine, the e-design process, to vendors of electronic lab notebooks, and in the process create at least 50 jobs.

The project aim is to improve teaching, learning and practice of design processes, by automating the seemingly impossible task of assessing the quality of the design activities relative to a given design process through guiding, real-time alerts. The project presents the only learning tool capable of assessing design activities from all the five stages of the design process. The research question is "Can a software application be used to assess the outcomes of a design process?" To answer this question, three technical objectives have been formulated. These are (1) Assessment of the information gathering activities; (2) Assessment of the design process activities; and (3) Engineering of the software objects extracted from the content of e-design notebooks. Central to the ecosystem is the ability of designers to upload their documents to a cloud environment, share selected designs with their teammates, and correspond with their instructor, mentor or supervisor, subject to configurable restrictions. The ecosystem also provides means for interfacing with established tools for computer aided design (CAD) or data product management. The e-design notebooks can tell a story that extends through the stages of the design process, capturing drawings with different degree of sophistication, and can even be extended to support complex CAD files.

Phase II

Contract Number: 1632408
Start Date: 9/1/2016    Completed: 8/31/2018
Phase II year
(last award dollars: 2018)
Phase II Amount

This Phase II project impacts the way engineering design is taught in design courses and contributes to the training of a strong workforce in areas related to science, technology and engineering. The Ecosystem is a software tool that automatically verifies designs against the requirements, to uncover oversights early in the process, but also fosters engineering judgement and creativity, allows for assessment of designs with less subjectivity, and facilitates smooth communication among team members. This results in productivity enhancements, higher quality designs and shorter time-to-market, but also in societal benefits (safer products, less risk of catastrophic accidents and more competitive design organizations). The target market consists of (1) educational institutions teaching engineering design, and (2) design companies striving to ensure compliance with the design specifications. The core innovation is three-fold. First, it consists of an e-design assessment engine that is being developed to a high degree of sophistication. Second, design repositories are investigated and developed for integration. Third, holistic (big data) analysis of design content and metadata is implemented. The project seeks to develop an innovative design decision (learning) support system addressing problems related to the high cost of design oversights. Such oversights can result in catastrophic failures, product recalls, or simply in budget or schedule over-runs (due to rework). The Ecosystem offers a flexible, yet systematic and generic, framework, for guiding designers through the design process, and for automatically assessing design activities, from each stage in the design process, against the product design specification (PDS). At the center of the Ecosystem is the e-design assessment engine, which decomposes the PDS, correlates the design activities against individual requirements, and provides real-time advisories in case of design oversights. The assessment engine automatically configures popular development tools for engineering design, determines relevant analyses, and interprets the outputs. The Ecosystem interfaces with these development tools, but does not replace. The Ecosystem can translate qualitative customer requirements into solid engineering requirements, and verify the relevance of the design content provided through seamless interfaces with industry databases. The Ecosystem improves designers' productivity through automation of many administrative tasks (e.g., generation of project reports). Despite the automation, the learning experience is not diminished. The Ecosystem prompts for, captures, and preserves the rationale for relevant engineering decisions. It also supports accredited, generic learning objectives for engineering design.