To improve first year engineering students' understanding of the design process, a collaborative bridge design project is given to Architectural Engineering students during their first year at Penn State. This paper examines the benefits of reverting to traditional physical prototyping techniques for students to better understand the design process and how to compose and interpret design documents. Students create a preliminary set of design documents, exchange documents with a group of their peers, physically build a prototype of their peers' design, and synthesize design feedback. This process of generating feedback from another group's design through building their bridge benefits the students by allowing them to improve their design document comprehension skills and by gaining formative design feedback from another group of students in their class. After the prototyping activity: students were more likely to recognize areas of deficiency of their own work as well as the work of others; they could comprehend their peers' work well enough to accurately predict the primary design intent of their peers' designs; and the quality of the design documentation submitted improved over prior semesters that did not involve a prototyping design review activity. While this exploratory research suggests several distinct learning benefits based on the obtained data, it was also found that students' self-reports suggest that they do not necessarily recognize the learning benefits from this type of prototyping activity.