While scientists study how nature works, engineers create new things, such as products,
websites, environments, and experiences. Because engineers and scientists have different
objectives, they follow different processes in their work. Scientists perform experiments using the scientific method; whereas, engineers follow the creativity-based engineering design process.
Both processes can be broken down into a series of steps, as seen in the diagram and table.
What is the Engineering Design Process?
The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineers follow to come up with a solution to a problem. Many times the solution involves designing a product (like a machine or computer code) that meets certain criteria and/or accomplishes a certain task. This process is different from the Steps of the Scientific Method, which you may be more familiar with. If your project involves making observations and doing experiments, you…
Comparing the Scientific Method and the Engineering Process
Overview of the Engineering Process
Who should use the engineering process for their science fair project?
Define a Need Instead of Asking a Question
Background Research Plan & Bibliography
Define your target user or customer
Research what already exists to fill the need you defined
Do research that will help you establish your…
by Wm. Bruce Weaver, Ph.D.
Director, Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy
Dedicated to Research and Education in Astronomy For Over 30 Years.
So, I proved my hypothesis...
This is probably the most commonly heard (or read) phrase at a science fair. And, it's wrong!
Before I explain why this is wrong, let me say that I really enjoy judging science fairs. Not for the plastic solar systems, volcano models, and other canned science book staples but for the exciting fresh…
Keep a Great Science or Engineering Project Laboratory Notebook
Whether you are a research scientist, an engineer, or a first-time science fair student, you should use a lab notebook to document your science investigations, experiments, and product designs. A lab notebook is an important part of any research or engineering project. Used properly, your lab notebook contains a detailed and permanent account of every step of your project, from the initial brainstorming to the final data analysis…
The design process takes days, weeks, sometimes even months or years, to complete
and involves many different steps and phases along the way. If you recorded all
of your work in different places, it would be almost impossible to find important
thoughts when you need to refresh your memory. And, it would be difficult to gather
all your work to present your final solution. To avoid being disorganized, designers
and engineers keep design notebooks, where they record every detail of…
Development involves the refinement and improvement of a solution.
Some development work might be needed very early in the design process in order to evaluate different potential solutions. For example, it might not be possible to compare the cost of early design concepts without doing some development work to estimate what the cost of an alternative would actually be.
Development work continues throughout the design process, often even after a product ships to…
What is the Scientific Method?
The scientific method is a process for experimentation that is used to explore observations and answer questions. Does this mean all scientists follow exactly this process? No. Some areas of science can be more easily tested than others. For example, scientists studying how stars change as they age or how dinosaurs digested their food cannot fast-forward a star's life by a million years or run medical exams on feeding dinosaurs to test their hypotheses.…
Since the beginning of time, drawings have been a way to share ideas with others.
Being able to describe your idea verbally is important, but drawings are what allow
you to show other people what's in your imagination. Words can only translate an
idea to someone else's mind—and that allows for a new interpretation of what
that idea may look like. You don't want your ideas to get lost in translation!
Now, like many, you may think that you can't draw. But you don't have to be…
A prototype is an operating version of a solution. Often a designer makes a prototype with different materials than the final version, and generally it is not as polished.
Prototypes are a key step in the development of a final solution, allowing the designer to test how the solution will work and even show the solution to users for feedback. Occasionally, designers will prototype pieces of the final solution very early in the design process. Sometimes designers will make…