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© Loughborough University, 2004 Design Abacus Activity Time: 60 – 80 mins Group size: Any divided into small groups 1-8 per group Requirements: Several Design Abacus sheets per group, a product per group to assess (ideally 2 of the same, one to take apart)
© Loughborough University, 2004 Activity Purpose To enable students to asses the sustainability performance of a current product, highlight the areas where further research is needs and outline the targets for their redesign.
© Loughborough University, 2004 When to use the activity During product analysis it can be used to rate and existing product or an alternative design. During planning a major product it can be used to identify problem areas in sustainability for their design ideas.
© Loughborough University, 2004 Running the activity It is often useful to have two of each product to be assessed, ask the student to dismantle one before the start of the activity, they may need to investigate what the different materials are etc. Identify which focal areas from those listed under Environment, Social/Ethical & Economic (see download) are going to be considered. Each focal area should be written in the bottom box on the abacus sheet. For each focal area identify a number of issues which are important for the particular product (see download). Each issue now needs to be transferred onto the appropriate abacus sheet. The ideal condition listed at the top and the worst condition at the bottom, eg in the focal area of end of life the idea condition is easy to disassemble and the work case is difficult to disassemble.
© Loughborough University, 2004 Running the activity When all issues have been transferred on to the abacus sheets the assessment can begin. To assess the product the student (or group) should take each issue in turn and decide how good or bad the current product is in that area, this is just a relative measure and accuracy is not needed. Once the score is assigned for a particular issue the students can then consider the confidence level. The aim of this is to indicate how confident they are in their judgement. If the students are unsure about anything they can give a low confidence and this will help highlight those areas where further research about the product is needed.
© Loughborough University, 2004 Running the activity The students should continue assessing the product until all issues have been considered. The individual sheets can then be joined together and a line drawn to connect all the scores in the issues area and confidence levels. This assessment then gives a very visual result that highlight the good and bad areas of the product (see example below). The targets for the redesign can then be drawn on the abacus in a different colour and when the redesign is compete it can be assessed against the target to see if it has been met.
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