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Access Type

Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



knowledge management, semantic web, engineering ontology, biology, finite-element analysis, knowledge reuse


A substantial amount of research has been done in the field of engineering knowledge management, where countless ontologies have been developed for various applications within the engineering community. However, despite the success shown in these research efforts, the techniques have not been adopted by industry. This research aims to uncover the reasons for the slow adoption of engineering knowledge frameworks, namely ontologies, in industry.

There are two projects covered in this thesis. The first project is the development of a cross-domain ontology for the Biomesh Project, which spans the fields of mechanical engineering, biology, and anthropology. The biology community is known for its embrace of ontologies and has made their use quite popular with the creation of the Gene Ontology. This ontology spawned the establishment of the Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) Foundry, a consortium which approves and curates ontologies in the biology field. No such consortium exists in the field of engineering. This project demonstrates the usefulness of curated reference ontologies. Ontological knowledge bases in four different domains were imported and integrated together to connect previously disparate information. A case study with data from the Biomesh Project demonstrates cross-domain queries and inferences that were not possible before the creation of this ontology.

In the second part of this thesis we investigate the usability of current ontology tools. Protégé, the most popular ontology editing tool, is compared to OntoWiki, a semantic wiki. This comparison is done using proven techniques from the field of Human-computer interaction to uncover usability problems and point out areas where each system excels. A field of 16 subjects completed a set of tasks in each system and gave feedback based on their experience. It is shown that while OntoWiki offers users a satisfying interface, it lacks in some areas that can be easily improved. Protégé provides users with adequate functionality, but it is not intended for a novice user.


First Advisor

Sundar Krishnamurty

Second Advisor

Ian Grosse