Engineering design is a process. It involves tools and ways of thinking that people can use in almost any situation. Each part of the process reveals information about the problem and possible solutions.
Engineering design is iterative. Engineers are expected to repeat the process. Steps like defining, planning, modeling, and testing, can be completed in different sequences to find the best possible solution.
Engineering design is problem-solving. It always has a purpose that is specific and known. It may involve experiments to better understand the problem (or a possible solution), but the goal of engineering design is always to solve a problem.
Engineering design is finding the best solution. Evaluation is an important part of the process. Solutions have different strengths and weaknesses and have to stay within the physical limits of available time, cost, tools, and resources. Engineers have to choose the solution that provides the most desired features with the fewest negatives. That’s why engineering is often called “design under constraint”.
Engineering design is an iterative process used to identify problems and develop and improve solutions.
The engineering design process can be extremely useful to any individual trying to solve a problem. But engineering design can be – and usually is – done in teams. Each team member brings different knowledge and experience to the process, which usually improves the results.
Can anybody do this?
Yes! One great thing about engineering design is that it relies on skills that anyone can do and can learn to do better with practice.
Different models of the engineering design process include different “steps”, but there are a few skills that anyone doing engineering design is likely to use - and most of these you are already familiar with. Here's a list:
- Ask questions
- Do research
- Construct models or prototypes
- Conduct tests
- Evaluate results
- Present solutions
Professional engineers may work on problems that are bigger in scale and complexity, but the basic process for solving them is the same as the one you can use to solve everyday problems. The difference between planning a taco party and designing a city's water system is simply the amount of specialized knowledge and experience required to solve the problem.