The Engineering Design Process
The method that professional engineers use to develop new products is called the engineering design process. It contains several steps that engineers use to think through problems. Many of the steps can be adapted for use with children of various ages and abilities. Here are the steps:
- Identify a Problem – Engineers are in the business of solving problems. In this step, they work to identify and define the problem that needs to be addressed. They examine things like who the solution will help and the needs of those individuals.
- Think of possible solutions – During these brainstorming sessions, ideas about possible solutions are gathered. Nothing is filtered out yet, that happens in a later step.
- Research – In this step, engineers dig into the potential solutions. They look to prior solutions that have been developed for similar products and how effective they were. They may also gather information from the people who will benefit or use the product that is being created. This research will help engineers better understand the needs of the consumers and avoid pitfalls that have occurred in the past.
- Define parameters – After researching the problem and potential solutions, engineers work to clarify the needs and requirements for the project. In real projects, an example may be budgetary constraints. In the classroom, the available materials may be part of the parameters that are created.
- Review other solutions – During the research process, additional potential solutions may have been identified. If this occurs, those potential solutions should be researched as the original ideas were. This is an example of how the engineering design process is a cycle and steps may be repeated or revisited before moving on.
- Choose a solution – After information about possible solutions has been gathered, engineers make an educated decision about the best option to pursue. Any solutions that do not meet the established parameters should be shelved.
- Make a plan – Once the solution is identified, engineers can sketch out the plan for various stages of development.
- Create a prototype – This first draft of the solution helps engineers test their theories and identify necessary improvements.
- Testing – Engineers use this step to ensure that the model they have created works and meets all of the requirements and parameters that have been identified.
- Make improvements – The testing step allows engineers to identify areas of improvement for the product or solution they are creating. The testing and improving steps may be revisited many times before the product is ready to be produced.
- Build the solution – When engineers are sure that the product meets all identified standards, they will build full a full model of the product or solution.
- Communicate – Once the product is complete, it is time to tell people about the work, through presentations, reports, demonstrations, etc.
There are many versions of the engineering design process, and it can be adapted for use with children, using fewer steps. Again, the engineering design process is iterative, meaning that it is repetitive. The entire process can be repeated once a solution is generated or steps within the process can be revisited at any time.
For the main article Early Engineering, CLICK HERE
For the article The Engineering Design Process for Children, CLICK HERE
For the article Recommendations for Engineering Activities, CLICK HERE
For the article Why is Engineering Important in Early Learning?, CLICK HERE