Breaking Down the Engineering Design Process (EDP)


When giving students an engineering design problem to solve, it is essential to also provide them with the framework to guide the problem-solving process. This process is called the Engineering Design Process, or the EDP. 

Similar to how scientists use the Scientific Method to draw a conclusion to a problem or question, engineers use the Engineering Design Process to iterate a solution to an identified problem. 

The EDP consists of five distinct phases that help engineers organize their thoughts. Use this outline to help define the EDP for students: 

  1. Ask
    • This is where students are presented with a problem to solve. The teacher often provides this prompt. The problem should be open-ended to allow students to determine how they will go about solving it. For example, instead of asking, "Create a water filter following these steps," you'll want to ask, "How would you create a water filter that would filter out rocks, pebbles, and sand from pond water?"
  2. Imagine
    • After being presented with a problem to solve, students will imagine the specs of their technology. The teacher should ask specific questions that help guide students in generating and refining ideas. For example, you may want to ask about the physical dimensions of the technology (e.g., How big will your technology be? What will it be made of? How many filter layers will your water filter have?) or detailed questions about how it will function (e.g., What will each layer of your filter system do?).
  3. Plan
    • Students should then spend between 15 and 30 minutes planning their designs. Using a sheet of paper, students should draw and label the parts of their design, specifying both the parts of their and the materials they are considering using to make each part. (The Design SySTEM curriculum uses recyclables and basic school supplies as building materials.)
  4. Create
    • Once students have generated a preliminary plan, they will use these blueprints to create their technologies. During this phase, students should both create and test their work. For example, if students were asked to create a "robotic hand" that could pick up objects, you may ask students to test if the hand could pick up and hold one crayon or a pair of scissors.
    • After creating and testing their technologies, students should demonstrate their work to a peer for feedback.
  5. Improve
    • Students will use the results of their test, and the feedback they've received from peers, to make a plan for how they will improve their designs. If students were successful in testing their technologies, you may want to provide them with a challenge test. For example, after creating a "robotic hand", you may want to challenge students to be able to write with the hand after being able to pick up a crayon.

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