What is the Engineering Design Process?

The Engineering Design process is a way of solving a problem. We solve problems every day; for example, deciding what clothes to wear. When we do that, we follow the same steps as an engineer does when he/she solves a problem. What process do you follow when you decide what to wear any day? Brainstorm the parts of a process.

Lessons to develop the concept of the Engineering Design Process

Lesson 1 – Introduction to Engineering Design Thinking

Lesson Focus and Goal: Students will work through a playful example of engineering design thinking and begin to make meaning from it as a means of developing an understanding of this type of problem solving.

Objectives: Students will be able to identify essential elements of Engineering Design thinking.

Structure/Activity: A set of common household items that could be used to “build” a vertical “mountain” (such as books, paper, tape) are placed on a common table in sufficient quantities for teams of two to three participants to have various materials to use. Participants are challenged with the question: “Using the available materials, which team can build the tallest mountain?” After 10 minutes of time building, stop and identify which mountain is the tallest, then debrief by asking these questions and recording answers where they are visible to all.

  1. What were some of the steps you took as you built your mountain?
    • Ex. Got materials, thought about ideas, built, changed the design and built again and shared with all.
  2. If you were really building a building, what would you do?
    • Ex. Using real materials, the process should be somewhat the same,
      1. Hopefully someone would say build a model before the real building (building a prototype).

Assessment:  Ask “what name(s) might you give to the group of terms we have on our list?” Should say something about problem solving or process to answer a question.

Lesson 2 – Developing Understanding of Engineering Design

Lesson Focus and Goal: Students will view and analyze a playful, relatable video clip and be able to identify additional elements in the Engineering Design Process.

Objectives: Students will be able to identify all essential elements in the Engineering Design Process.

Structure/Activity: Have students view the Taco Party video clip.

Ask the following questions:

  1. Did you see the elements we have on our list in the clip? Where?
  2. What additional elements should we add to our list?
  3. (Clip emphases – begins with a problem, considers constraints, does repeated trials to make the results a better solution to the problem.)

Assessment: What would be an example of Engineering Design that you might use every day? (Ex. deciding what clothes to wear, what to eat, what to do with your time during the day.)

Lesson 3 – Connection to Engineering

Lesson Focus and Goal: Students will view two playful video clips focused on real world engineering and be able to identify the elements of the Engineering Design Process.

Objectives: Students will be able to relate the elements of Engineering Design to the work of a practicing engineer.

Structure/Activity: Debrief on the clips below, asking “How are the elements of the Engineering Design process used in this clip?” How are we all engineers?


Assessment: Have students identify ways that Engineering Design is used in the built environment that is around them every day.  (Building a building, building a road, making a tool or an app using technology.)

Resources for Integrating Engineering Design into Lesson Plans