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Students working on team-based design courses often have difficulty tracking the evolution of their design. Student teams seldom have complete meeting notes and frequently backtrack on previous decisions, wasting substantial time and resources. As documents are generated by different team members at different times during a project, not everyone is aware of what is in all the documents. Locating the right information among evolving documents such as different versions of the same document (e.g., a final report), or static documents that are referred to frequently (e.g. a key reference or manual) can be time consuming and often futile. Even for teams with well-structured document management systems, finding the correct paragraph or document fragment for a given topic can be difficult. In addition, as the design progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of the progress made by other team members as well as the options already explored by them. These problems exist for both industry and student teams, but are usually more severe for students who are novices in the design process. Another problem for student design teams is that of requirements deviation, in which the interpretation of decisions by different team members may be not only different, but often conflicting. Detecting such problems as they occur would be advantageous for the team and increase the probability of the project's success. Students lack both the tools and the perspective to structure and manage the documents that they generate and use. Our goal is make it easier for student teams to manage their design process by being able to: (1) see the current state of the project they are working on and check if they are missing a crucial part, and (2) focus their efforts on a particular artifact of interest in completed projects, regardless of where it occurs in the documents. To accomplish this, we propose to create navigable ArtifactWebs that will help design team members to visualize th- e current state of the project based on the artifacts described in the project documents and technical discussions. In this paper, we present a preliminary version of the ArtifactWeb, based on three years of data from a multidisciplinary team-based design course, which is offered every spring at Carnegie Mellon University.
Date of Conference: 16-18 April 2008