Learn how engineers use a systematic, iterative process, called the engineering design process, to generate solutions.
Engineers can be inspired by flashes of insight or tinkering but designing a functioning product requires structured, data-driven design, analysis, and testing. Engineering experiences, therefore, should encourage youth’s ideas and creativity, but also help them engage in methodical, planned approaches that break down the process into manageable components.
The engineering design process serves as a tool to guide and structure activity. It orients and focuses youth on the goal of the activity. And it also helps situate that day’s work in the larger project.
It is important to recognize that the phases are guideposts, not rigid steps. In reality, engineers move back and forth between the phases. As they design, additional questions might arise that need to be researched, mini-investigations might be needed to bolster understanding or decision-making, criteria and constraints might need to be reviewed or revised.
Most K-12 engineering education programs use a specific engineering design process. Three examples include:
Engineering design processes are cyclical and iterative. Designs often do not function well initially—redesigns and tweaks are needed to improve or optimize them, launching another cycle of design. Technology itself evolves and changes over time. Many new products begin with an idea about how an existing technology might be modified to perform slightly different or better.
Introducing youth to a structured way to solve problems, equips them with a tool they can use not only to address engineering challenges but also to systematically approach problems that arise in their lives.
Now that you’ve watched the video, reflect on what you saw.
Engineers think innovatively, brainstorm and analyze multiple solutions, compare the effectiveness of various designs, and make informed recommendations about open-ended problems.