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Engineering Design Process

Engineers use a systematic, iterative process to solve problems. YES structures students’ work with an age-appropriate, cyclical, engineering design process.

This is not a rigid process — as learners engineer, they move back and forth between phases. After proceeding through the basic phases, young learners improve their design by repeating the cycle.

YES Elementary Engineering Design Process

Elementary learners engage with a simple, five-phase process.

schematic illustrating steps in design process

Ask: Youth define the problem. They build deeper knowledge about what is known and what needs to be learned. They identify the requirements for the design (criteria) and how their choices may be limited (constraints). This includes considering the needs of users and implications of the technology. They explore materials and identify which are best suited to the challenge.

Imagine: Youth creatively brainstorm ways to solve the problem. Considering what they have learned, each learner generates at least two possible solutions.

Plan: Youth share their ideas. They select elements to create a group design that meets the challenge’s specifications. The team sketches the design and includes a detailed materials list.

Create: Team members work together to construct the technology they designed.

Test: The team tests its design solution against the performance criteria. Youth gather and analyze data to determine where to make improvements.

Improve Cycle: Finally, youth improve their design by going through another iteration of the process.



Youth Engineering Solutions educates the next generation of problem solvers and engineers by developing equitable, research-based, and classroom-tested preK-8 engineering and STEM curricula; preparing and empowering educators to teach engineering; and conducting rigorous research that informs K-12 engineering education.

Youth Engineering Solutions (YES)

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802