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THE DESIGN LOOP

The design loop is a guide that helps make STEM design problems a more effective learning tool for students. It is a structure for thinking and doing — the essence of design and problem solving. Designing is not a linear process. When you design and make something, you do not think and act in separate, sequential steps. Rather, you complete activities that logically lead to additional activities — sometimes they occur in the order outlined below and sometimes they occur more randomly, but in almost all cases all of the activities outlined below occur during the engineering design process. It is a good teaching tool to require students to document their passage through all phases of engineering design.

Below is an illustration and description of each phase of the design loop.

1. What is the problem?

2. Brainstorming solutions

3. Choosing Your Solution: Choosing the best among a number of ideas is less straightforward than it may appear. Two strategies:

  • (1) Listing the attributes (good and bad points) of the ideas and comparing them; and
  • (2) Developing a decision matrix that compares attributes to design criteria.

The evaluation process may indicate a way to combine features of several solutions into an optimum solution. The student designer begins working on the myriad of sub-problems that need solutions. This involves modeling, experimentation wit h different materials, and fastening techniques, shapes, and other things that need to be done before actual construction of the final design is undertaken. At this point the student designer begins to develop models and prototypes that represent their idea. Two-dimensional and Three-dimensional models, computer models, and mathematical models are commonly used.

4. Test Your Solution: This may be as simple as applying the specifications to the end product to see if it does all the things that it is supposed to do.

5. Evaluate your Solution:

Design Loop