When engineers have a problem to solve, they don’t just grab a bunch of materials and start building something – there is a cycle that they work through to solve these problems. This is called the ENGINEERING DESIGN PROCESS. Although you can find many variations of this process, each has the same goals.
Ask – Jot down any questions you have once you identify an engineering problem to solve. These questions could be about the materials and resources available, how you know when you are successful, who will be helped by solving this problem, and who you might need to look to for help and assistance.
Imagine – This step is just like brainstorming. Let your imagination run! Make a rough list, either using words or pictures. Choose your best idea from this step to move forward with.
Plan – Make a detailed illustration of your idea. These do not have to be hand drawn – many engineers use a drafting software or CAD program to illustrate their plans. Label things like the dimensions, types of materials, and even the job of each small part of your design. Be sure that your plan is clear enough so that someone else could create your design if they needed to – the same team of engineers that plan are not always the same ones that create.
Create and Test – Time to bring your plan to life. Follow the design you made during the create phase but remember that its ok to be flexible and adjust your plans as you go. Test the parts of your design as you go along, and allow time for final testing to determine what works and what does not.
Improve and Retest – What happens if your design does not work? This is the step that allows you to learn from a failed design. Take the time to look at the specific parts or steps of your design that are not working properly and redesign. Be sure to test again to make sure your improvements worked!
Want more examples and information? Check out the Crash Course Kids video below for their version of the design process! (Note: Listen for when the host is listing the types of engineering and says “or a type of engineering that doesn’t even exist yet”. Engineering is always changing! It’s exciting!)