“5 Whys” Laboratory Activity for System Creation in Computer Engineering

Objective: To guide Computer Engineering students in determining the type of system to create by applying the “5 Whys” technique.


  1. Pen and paper or whiteboard for each student group.
  2. Sample scenarios or user needs (provided below).


  1. Introduction:
    • Introduce the “5 Whys” technique to students, emphasizing its use in problem-solving and root cause analysis.
    • Highlight how the “5 Whys” can also be a tool for identifying user needs or market gaps that a new system can address.
  2. Setup:
    • Divide students into small groups (3-4 students per group).
    • Provide each group with a general scenario or user need. The scenario should be broad enough to require investigation.
  3. Sample Scenarios/User Needs:
    • Scenario A: A local business is struggling with managing its inventory.
    • Scenario B: Students at a university are finding it challenging to book study rooms.
    • Scenario C: Patients at a hospital complain about long wait times for appointments.
  4. Application of the 5 Whys:
    • Each group will apply the “5 Whys” technique to their given scenario to determine the underlying problem or need. This process will guide them in deciding what system to create.
    For Scenario A (as an example):
    • Why 1: Why is the business struggling with managing inventory?
      • Answer: They’re using manual methods to track items.
    • Why 2: Why are they using manual methods?
      • Answer: They don’t have an automated system in place.
    • Why 3: Why don’t they have an automated system?
      • Answer: Existing systems are too expensive or complicated.
    • Why 4: Why are existing systems expensive or complicated?
      • Answer: They are designed for larger businesses and have unnecessary features.
    • Why 5: Why aren’t there simpler systems for smaller businesses?
      • Answer: Most software developers target larger businesses for higher profits.
    Conclusion: There’s a need for an affordable, simplified inventory management system for small businesses.
  5. System Proposal:
    • Based on the conclusions drawn from the “5 Whys” analysis, each group will brainstorm and propose a system that addresses the identified need. They should outline the key features, benefits, and potential challenges of their proposed system.
  6. Group Presentations:
    • Each group will present their findings and proposed system to the class. They should explain the reasoning behind their “5 Whys” and how it led to their system proposal.
  7. Reflection and Feedback:
    • After presentations, open a discussion for feedback. Encourage groups to critique and provide suggestions for other groups’ proposed systems.
    • Conclude by having students reflect on the effectiveness of the “5 Whys” technique in system design and how it can be applied in real-world engineering scenarios.

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