Design and Build

The definition of the engineering design process can vary slightly depending on the intended audience; this definition adapted from TEACH Engineering K-12 Resources Engineering Design Process sums up the engineering design process for students and teachers.
Teachers can also view this video to understand how an engineer describes this process:

The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineering teams use to guide them as they solve problems:

  • Understand the need: What is the problem? What do we want to accomplish? What are the project requirements? What are the limitations? Who is the customer? What is our goal? Gather information and conduct research - talking to people from many different backgrounds.
  • Brainstorm different designs: Imagine and brainstorm ideas. Be creative; build upon the wild and crazy ideas of others. Investigate existing technologies and methods to use. Explore, compare and analyze many possible solutions.
  • Select a design: Based on the needs identified, select the most promising idea.
  • Plan: Draw a diagram of your idea. How will it work? What environmental and cultural considerations will you evaluate? What materials and tools are needed? What analyses must you do? How will you test it to make sure it works?
  • Create: Assign team tasks. Build a prototype and test it against your design objectives. Push yourself for creativity, imagination and excellence in design. Does it work? Analyze and talk about what works, what doesn't and what could be improved.
  • Improve: Discuss how you could improve your product. Make revisions. Draw new designs. Iterate your design to make your product the best it can be.

Engineers use their science and math knowledge to explore all possible options and compare many design ideas. This is called open-ended design because when you start to solve a problem, you don't know what the best solution will be to meet the requirements. The process is cyclical and may begin at, and return to, any step.

Engineers select the solution that best uses the available resources and best meets the project's requirements. They consider many factors before they implement a design: Cost to make and use, quality, reliability, environmental consideration, safety, functionality, ease of use, aesthetics, ethics, social and cultural impact, maintainability, testability, ease/cost of construction and manufacturability. They also consider sustainability - how the development, use and ultimate disposal of the product might impact people and our planet.
Using the engineering design process with your students:

Two key themes of the engineering design process are teamwork and design. Since students design in small groups, encourage them use the steps of the engineering design process. How will they work well together, listening to and respecting all ideas in the brainstorming session, reserving any judgment until a decision is made? Even then, make the decision-making process as democratic as possible, with all opinions being heard. Once a teamwork base is established, build upon that with a creative design. If a team of students is excited about their idea, they can come up with some fun methods for improving or extending the original idea. Reinforce with them that the end goal is a design solution that is a seamless blend of creativity and utility.

"The source of this material is the TeachEngineering digital library collection at All rights reserved."
The Engineering Design Process (2011) Retrieved from

Iterations of Design and Build:


Figure 1 Engineering is Elementary


Figure 2 NASA