The Engineering Design Process

The Engineering Design Process is a fluid series of steps used to streamline and maximize the efficiency of progress designing, building, and testing a robot.

Why Use the Engineering Design Process?

There are different variations of the Engineering Design Process (EDP), as it is simply a way for engineers to conclude problems. Outside of gaining points on the Design Rubric, using the Engineering Design Process provides an organized method to consistently research and develop solutions based on a defined problem. Following steps to research and choose the best solutions, as well as for planning, building, and testing, provides an organizational structure that is very beneficial towards creating effective solutions.

Following the Steps:

1. Define the Problem

Objectives & Constraints

Simply put, this step consists of stating, clarifying, or determining the problem to be solved. This could be as big as "what is this season's game asking us to do," "what should the first design be," or as small as "how to fix the intakes."

Following the Engineering Notebook Rubric, it is crucial to define challenges at the start of each cycle. Both words and pictures may be used to depict this step.

2. Research

How are objectives accomplished?

Understanding the logic behind the game objective can further assist in how it may be conceptualized. In addition to coming up with original ideas, researching for potential design ideas is essential. Many great designs from previous seasons can serve as inspiration for new ideas in the current season, and it is always worth knowing what other teams might end up doing.

3. Identify Possible Solutions

How can this game be played?

Starting this step can consist of creating a list of a handful of designs or solutions that have been researched or created, thoroughly describing each. While having a full robot completely designed is not necessary, being able to completely establish the capability of potential solutions will help tremendously with the next step.

Again denoted by the Engineering Notebook Rubric, three or more possible solutions to the challenge should be portrayed with labeled diagrams.

4. Choose the Best Solution

How do you want to play this game?

Exploiting the information gathered and compiled in previous steps, it is now time to choose which design or solution would solve the proposed problem most effectively. There are many decision matrices that can help with this, in order to thoroughly compare the benefits and drawbacks of each solution in order to determine which is best.

In this stage of the design process, the team’s objectives are to reach a conclusion regarding the challenges posed by this season’s game.

5. Prototype and Design

Prototype designs based on strategies

In this step, primary actions will be designing and planning out the solution in much more detail, before finally building or enacting the design. This may include detailed sketches, diagrams, or drawings.

In terms of robot construction, CAD software can help to construct a fully virtual rendition of a prototype, before spending time and resources building it with real parts.

Does it work?

With the completed design or solution, testing is now required to make sure it works. When testing, recording both qualitative data, such as whether or not the robot can score, and quantitative data, such as whether the robot functions consistently, helps to recognize any failure points or inconsistencies to refine. Ideally, repeat this step until every recorded data-point is optimal.

7. Repeat


The Engineering Design Process is not something that should be used once at the start of the season for your robot, nor is it something that should only be used on major iterations. This process is iterative, meaning that the steps are repeated as many times as needed, making improvements along the way, learning from failure as new design possibilities are uncovered to arrive at great solutions. The Engineering Design Process can, and should, be used for all work on the robot, no matter the size. Whether using it for a large-scale iteration of the robot, or for figuring out how to fix drive burnouts, the EDP is an essential tool for improving any robot's performance.

The design process should be repeated multiple time for prime optimization.

Teams Contributed to this Article:

  • BLRS (Purdue SIGBots)

  • 81218J (StoMos)

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