Most engineers are great storytellers.

Having the number that is the “best answer” isn’t enough. Most engineers need to tell someone else about the this number, how the engineer solved the problem and what this number means to peers, managers, and the rest of the world.

Everyone thinks about engineering and math and science. Most engineers also spend a lot of time and effort communicating technical information to others – other engineers, technicians, management, sometimes even students, journalists and politicians, too.

Technical communication is the ability to express yourself and tell other people about your ideas.

  • World history in 2 minutes (video 2:10) – tells a story in just 2 minutes using only images. There are no words, narration or text. The music and the pauses contribute to presenting the story.

Emails, memos

Reports, documentation

Graphs, charts, spreadsheets

Models, prototypes, drawings

Simulations, rendering

Rapid manufacturing

Presentations, public speaking

Meetings – participation, preparation, conducting

Teams – collaboration, cooperation, leadership
Digital storytelling
So how do you go about telling your story? Storytelling has been around for as long as people have been communicating with one another, so there are guidelines. Although there are many variations, the 8 Steps to great digital storytelling gives a pretty good overview of the process. Conveniently, the steps correspond to the steps in the [/Engineering%20Design%20Process Engineering Design Process]. They are spread out, but the process is essentially the same.

  • Ask (What? Ask questions, understand the need, identify the problem, define)
    1. Start with an Idea – understanding the idea for a story is the same as understanding the engineering problem – building a bridge over a river, for example. Tell the story about the bridge.
  • Imagine (So what? Imagine, brainstorm, explore, discover)
    2. Research/Explore/Learn – there are lots of different types of bridges and there a lots of different stories to tell about a bridge.
    Q: What’s important? What are some of the ways to tell the story?
  • Plan (Now what? Plan, design)
    3. Write / Script – Write it down. Draw a picture. Create a mindmap. Now it is more that an idea. Put details in order.
    Q: How are you going to get there from here?
    4. Storyboard / Plan – Add more details. Make it 3 dimensional so you get a better idea of what the final product will be.
  • Create (Do it. Create, try it out)
    5. Gather and Create Images, Audio and Video –
    6. Put It all Together
    7. Share
  • Improve (If this then what? Improve, make it better)
    8. Reflection and Feedback – either you come up with new, better ideas or someone else sees an opportunity to make it better. Time to consider a “do over” or a “tweek” – make it better.
    Notice that this diagram shows all the steps in order in a loop. In reality, there are likely loops within the loops. As you get to ready to put all the pieces together, you realize that you are missing some detail. You go back to the step where that pieces gets added into the big picture and move forward again.

Engineering ideas
Show and Tell
Now it is your turn. Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • create a digital story about an “engineered solution” – a man-made object or structure and introduce some important engineering concept that it demonstrates

Learn more…