What’s the Buzz: Engineering Design Process

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What's the Buzz
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Today is Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  Those arranging and participating in “Girl’s Day” activities are helping us to close the science gap. SheHeroes (reviewed here) is an organization that believes young girls should be encouraged to pursue non-traditional STEM based careers. Be sure to check out their resources as you plan for participating in “Girl’s Day” as part of National Engineers Week.  As we introduce even our youngest learners to engineering, it is important to come to a common understanding of both the Engineering Design Process and how it differs from Design Thinking.


Science Buddies (reviewed here) outlines the the following steps in the Engineering Design Process:

  1. Define the Problem
  2. Do Background Research
  3. Specify Requirements
  4. Brainstorm Solutions
  5. Choose the Best Solution
  6. Do Development Work
  7. Build a Prototype
  8. Test and Redesign


For younger children, teachers might consider using the five steps outlined by the Boston Museum of Science Engineering is Elementary project (reviewed here).


J Edwards, an engineer turned teacher, makes a great distinction between the Engineering Design Process and Design Thinking. Engineering Design relies heavily on math, begins with understanding customer constraints and budgets and asks the designer to “prove” that their design is the best.  Design Thinking, on the other hand, is focused on solving problems for people, exploring possibilities without constraints and showing what you’ve designed.  While many teachers may have thought that the two were very similar and maybe even interchangeable, there’s a real difference.  


Check out the links below to learn more about using Engineering Design in the classroom:


About the author: Ruth Okoye

Dr. Ruth Okoye is the Director of K12 Initiatives at The Source for Learning. As a long-time technology coach, Ruth shares ideas and strategies for professional learning and thoughts on how to motivate yourself to “dig deeper” into educational technologies.

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