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ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

What is the process for developing potential design solutions?

Introduction to ETS1.B

from A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (pages 206-207)

The creative process of developing a new design to solve a problem is a central element of engineering. This process may begin with a relatively open-ended phase during which new ideas are generated both by individuals and by group processes such as brainstorming. Before long, the process must move to the specification of solutions that meet the criteria and constraints at hand. Initial ideas may be communicated through informal sketches or diagrams, although they typically become more formalized through models. The ability to build and use physical, graphical, and mathematical models is an essential part of translating a design idea into a finished product, such as a machine, building, or any other working system. Because each area of engineering focuses on particular types of systems (e.g., mechanical, electrical, biotechnological), engineers become expert in the elements that such systems need. But whatever their fields, all engineers use models to help develop and communicate solutions to design problems. 

Models allow the designer to better understand the features of a design problem, visualize elements of a possible solution, predict a design’s performance, and guide the development of feasible solutions (or, if possible, the optimal solution). A physical model can be manipulated and tested for parameters of interest, such as strength, flexibility, heat conduction, fit with other components, and durability. Scale models and prototypes are particular types of physical models. Graphical models, such as sketches and drawings, permit engineers to easily share and discuss design ideas and to rapidly revise their thinking based on input from others. 

Mathematical models allow engineers to estimate the effects of a change in one feature of the design (e.g., material composition, ambient temperature) on other features, or on performance as a whole, before the designed product is actually built. Mathematical models are often embedded in computer-based simulations. Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) are modeling tools commonly used in engineering. 

Data from models and experiments can be analyzed to make decisions about modifying a design. The analysis may reveal performance information, such as which criteria a design meets, or predict how well the overall designed system or system component will behave under certain conditions. If analysis reveals that the predicted performance does not align with desired criteria, the design can be adjusted. 

Grade Band Endpoints for ETS1.B

from A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (pages 207-208)

By the end of grade 2. Designs can be conveyed through sketches, drawings, or physical models. These representations are useful in communicating ideas for a problem’s solutions to other people. To design something complicated, one may need to break the problem into parts and attend to each part separately but must then bring the parts together to test the overall plan. 

By the end of grade 5. Research on a problem should be carried out—for example, through Internet searches, market research, or field observations—before beginning to design a solution. An often productive way to generate ideas is for people to work together to brainstorm, test, and refine possible solutions. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions. Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved. At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs. 

There are many types of models, ranging from simple physical models to computer models. They can be used to investigate how a design might work, communicate the design to others, and compare different designs. 

By the end of grade 8. A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it. There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem. Sometimes parts of different solutions can be combined to create a solution that is better than any of its predecessors. In any case, it is important to be able to communicate and explain solutions to others. 

Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions, and computers are a valuable tool for simulating systems. Simulations are useful for predicting what would happen if various parameters of the model were changed, as well as for making improvements to the model based on peer and leader (e.g., teacher) feedback. 

By the end of grade 12. Complicated problems may need to be broken down into simpler components in order to develop and test solutions. When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts. Testing should lead to improvements in the design through an iterative procedure. 

Both physical models and computers can be used in various ways to aid in the engineering design process. Physical models, or prototypes, are helpful in testing product ideas or the properties of different materials. Computers are useful for a variety of purposes, such as in representing a design in 3-D through CAD software; in troubleshooting to identify and describe a design problem; in running simulations to test different ways of solving a problem or to see which one is most efficient or economical; and in making a persuasive presentation to a client about how a given design will meet his or her needs.

Performance Expectations Associated with ETS1.B

K-2 3-5 6-8 9-12

Additional Resources

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (pages 206-208)

Appendix I - Engineering Design in the NGSS

Bozemanscience Video

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