What is engineering design?

Students are often confused with engineering and design. The term engineering design has two words with different meanings, engineering, and design. The term engineering implies applications of laws and principles of science to design and analyze physical structures and components. In civil engineering, students apply the concept of physics and chemistry to design and build structures and buildings. In engineering disciplines, the term design means determining the dimensions, loads, and associated influences on the component due to the applied loads such as stresses and deformations. The estimation of such parameters is crucial to make the component or structure foolproof.

In this topic of introduction to engineering design, the reader will get an insight into the design processes applied to projects, and the ways to solve such problem-based scenarios.

Use of engineering design

The engineering design process is the planning of a sequence of steps that should be followed to find a solution regarding proposed problems in a project. Students need to understand various problem-solving approaches that they need to apply in practical situations to solve an engineering problem.

The various steps a student can apply, to find a solution to the problems include:

  • establishing project goals
  • technical documentation
  • prototyping
  • testing

In the technical documentation, students need to include the proposed problems, detailed engineering drawings, its dimensions, constraints, that is, boundary conditions and initial conditions, and the unknown parameters that are to be determined.

  • Students can join various courses available both offline and online that would give them an insight into the challenges faced in real-world scenarios, especially in the engineering domain. PLTW engineering is one such institute in the United States that provides courses having resources to explore real-world problems. PLTW engineering helps students to develop problem-solving skills and allows them to utilize those skills to solve challenging problems. Taking such courses provides an advantage to the students in gaining dual credits. Dual credit is a system where a student can earn credits while studying in the secondary level in advance for their college level.
  • Students may enroll themselves in an EdTech company to learn more and understand the concepts in a better manner. Blackboard is one such company. The company assists various district home schools in the US and all around the globe. Students need to go through the Blackboard web community manager privacy policy before enrolling.
  • Besides these skills, an engineering student must know decent communication methods to effectively communicate the design ideas and progress to different engineers working with them. Effective communication methods also involve efficiently communicating the design to different vendors and manufacturers.
  • A student is also required to have a professional attitude and language speaking skills, they can join a professional community that will help him/her develop a professional mindset such as LinkedIn.

Engineering design process

One generally studies seven steps involved in the introductory course of the engineering design process, which is required to tackle any design challenge. They are outlined below:


A student must first learn to imagine the given design problems, without first aiming to solve a particular problem. A complete definition of the problem must be written down, such as, What is the problem, why it needs to be done, and how it should be done.


Students must learn to approach the problem in a step-by-step manner, After the clear problem definition, an efficient methodology should be selected that provides the most optimized solution to the problem.


In this stage, the major focus should be to create what has been planned. Various prototypes and models are created to get a better insight into the problem.

A prototype of an electronics circuit board
CC BY-SA 2.5 | Image Credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org | josemontero9


In this phase, the created model or the prototype is tested under simulations. The prototype is tested to the extreme conditions and the outcomes are noted down in technical documentation.


The limitations and the potholes recognized in the prototype should be improved and re-tested. The component needs to undergo a series of prototyping and testing before it provides a better solution as required.


Traditional ideas acquired from theoretical knowledge will not be sufficient to tackle a particular problem and provide the desired solution. Intensive research and out-of-the-box thinking are necessary to get the best optimized problem-based solutions.

Establish constraints

The design of a component should be based on some components, such as where the component is going to function, what human impacts it would have on the component, temperature considerations, environmental considerations, and under what loads it would operate. For instance, if an engineer is designing a steel bridge, they must consider human impacts such as overloading and infrastructure damage due to intentional and unintentional activities.

Engineering drawing and design

Drawing is the language of engineers, with a drawing an engineer cannot communicate an idea. More over an engineering drawing provides better insights to approach a particular problem. Any new idea needs to be first brought to the paper in terms of sketching. A technical drawing is second step to communicate the idea to other the team of engineers and manufacturing department. 

When it comes to bigger ideas like in ship building and aerospace areas where there are thousands of parts and assemblies, and if those parts needs to be drawn in scale, manually drawing drawing them becomes them a very tedious task and extremely time consuming. Hence, to simplify engineer's life and work computers took over control of the engineering drawing. Computer aided design (CAD) software, like AutoCAD from Autodesk is a basic primary CAD software that allows users to work in a two dimensional and three dimensional environments. Other CAD software such as CATIA, Fusion360 and SolidWorks allows engineers to handle more than thousands of parts and assemblies. These CAD software also permits engineers to perform finite element analysis to estimate stresses, strains, thermal and fluid calculations with ease

Context and Applications

This topic is extensively taught as an introductory course in the first-year engineering degree courses on civil engineering and mechanical engineering. The concepts are applied in different manufacturing industries and construction firms, to tackle various design challenges and design problems.

  • Bachelors in Technology (Civil Engineering)
  • Bachelors in Technology (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Bachelors in Technology (Industrial Designing)
  • Masters in Technology (Industrial Designing)
  • Masters in Technology (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Masters in Technology (Civil Engineering)

Practice Problems

1. Which of the following is the first step in the engineering design process?

  1. Prototyping
  2. Brainstorming
  3. Imagine
  4. Define

Correct option- c

Explanation: The first step in the engineering design process is to imagine the given problem. A clear visualization is necessary before moving to the next step.

2. Which of the following is a professional community that a student must join to develop a professional attitude?

  1. Blackboard web community manager privacy policy
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Professional skills society
  4. None of these

Correct option- b

Explanation: LinkedIn is a professional networking site that a student may join to develop professional skills and attitudes.

3. Which of the following is the human impact on steel bridges designed by civil engineers?

  1. Overloading
  2. Intentional and unintentional damages
  3. Repairing works
  4. Both a and b

Correct option: Both a and b

Explanation: Human impacts such as overloading, intentional and unintentional damages result in risks of developing minor deformations in the bridge, these deformations would develop cracks progressively, which might lead to failure.

4. Which of the following is true for engineering?

  1. Application of scientific principles to design and analyze
  2. Application of scientific laws to design and analyze
  3. Application of scientific concepts to solve a practical problem
  4. All of these

Correct option- d

Explanation: Engineering is a process of application of scientific principles, laws, and concepts to design and solve practical problems.

5. Which of the following organizations educate and train students to solve real-life practical problems?

  1. PLTW engineering
  2. Blackboard
  3. District home schools
  4. All of these

Correct option- a

Explanation: PLTW engineering educates and trains students to tackle and solve real-life engineering problems.

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