by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.
Typically, in the first semester of engineering school, an introductory course presents broad concepts about engineering. Students may learn the basic differences in the engineering fields (e.g., civil, electrical, mechanical, chemical, structural, etc.). They may spend some time considering ethical dilemmas that engineers have often faced in their careers. First-year students also usually give some consideration to the design process. Even in its basic form, the design process proves to be very complex, even before considering the specialized scientific knowledge required to design a given item.
Many steps are necessary in order to get a product to the public. Consider one introductory engineering textbook’s template for the design process (see Introduction to Engineering…, 2004, pp. 10,32):
- Problem symptom or expression; definition of product need; marketing information
- Problem definition, including statement of desired outcome
- Conceptual design and evaluation; feasibility study
- Design analysis; codes/standards review; physical and analytical models
- Synthesis of alternative solutions (back to design analysis for iterations)
- Decision (selection of one alternative)
- Prototype production; testing and evaluation (back to design analysis for more iterations)
- Production drawings; instruction manuals
- Material specification; process and equipment selection; safety review
- Pilot production
- Inspection and quality assurance
- Packaging; marketing and sales literature
The design process is unquestionably lengthy, technical, complex, and calculated….