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Junior STEM: Engineering Design Process



The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineers follow to come up with a solution to a problem. Many times the solution involves designing a product (like a machine or computer code) that meets certain criteria and/or accomplishes a certain task. This process is different from the steps of Scientific Method, which you may be more familiar with. If your project involves making observations and doing experiments, you should probably follow the Scientific Method. If your project involves designing, building, and testing something, you should probably follow the Engineering Design Process. 

1. Ask

Engineers ask critical questions about what they want to create, whether it be a skyscraper, amusement park ride, bicycle or smartphone. These questions include: What is the problem to solve? What do we want to design? Who is it for? What do we want to accomplish? What are the project requirements? What are the limitations? What is our goal?

2. Research 

Finding useful and helpful information about the problem. Gathering information, conducting surveys, finding examples of existing solutions, testing properties of materials, practical testing. Research also includes talking to people from many different backgrounds and specialties to assist with researching what products or solutions already exist, or what technologies might be adaptable to your needs.

3. Imagine

Activities such as brainstorming, mind mapping, sketching, drawing diagrams and plans, collecting colour samples and/or material samples and talking through these ideas can help to generate more creative ideas. You want to work with a team to come up with as many ideas and develop as many solutions as possible. This is the time to encourage wild ideas and defer judgment! Build on the ideas of others! Stay focused on topic, and have one conversation at a time! Remember: good design is all about teamwork! 

Using the SCAMPER model can assist with this!

4. Plan

Activities such as detailed drawings, modelling, prototyping, market research, gaining feedback from intended user, further research – if needed – to solve an issue with the design, testing different tools or equipment, trialling production processes, measuring or working out dimensions, testing of prototypes and further refinement. For many teams this is the hardest step! Revisit the needs, constraints and research from the earlier steps, compare your best ideas, select one solution and make a plan to move forward with it. 

5. Create

Building a prototype makes your ideas real! These early versions of the design solution help your team verify whether the design meets the original challenge objectives. Push yourself for creativity, imagination and excellence in design

6. Test and Evaluate

Does it work? Does it solve the need? Communicate the results and get feedback. Analyze and talk about what works, what doesn't and what could be improved

7. Improve

Discuss how you could improve your solution. Make revisions. Draw new designs. Iterate your design to make your product the best it can be. And now, REPEAT