Joshua Malinkovich

9/25/17

The Scientific Method and the Engineering Design Process

The Scientific Method

The scientific method is defined as a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested. (dictionary.com).

This definition shows the logical structure of the scientific method. A problem is identified, data is gathered, and other such steps executed until the scientific method repeats over and over again until the hypothesis is proven to be true in the conclusion of the method.

The steps of the scientific method are as follows:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Gather background research.
  3. Form a hypothesis.
  4. Test your hypothesis in an experiment.
  5. Analyze data.
  6. Draw a conclusion.
  7. (Not always) Communicate your results.

These steps of the scientific method are straightforward, and do not necessarily repeat once the process is over. They would only repeat if the initial hypothesis is false, in which case the scientists or people partaking in the scientific method would go back to the step in which they form a hypothesis, and then they would finish the process from there. For clarity, a hypothesis is an educated guess that you make. It reflects what you believe will happen in the experiment, and is often written in an if…then…because format. When data is analyzed, it is essential to transfer the newfound information to a graph, chart, table, or any other form of visual representation. An image of the scientific method is below, along with an example of a good graph.

overview_scientific_method2.gifdatabase-vertical-bar-graph.png

Engineering Design Process

“The engineering design process is a series of steps that guides engineering teams as they solve problems” (teachengineering.org).

In the engineering design process, engineers create a solution to a problem through research, testing, development, and many other such steps. This process repeats indefinitely, as a product can always be improved, and there will always be a problem to solve.

In the engineering design process, the steps are as follows.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Do background research.
  3. Specify constraints.
  4. Brainstorm solutions and choose the best solution(s).
  5. Perform developmental work.
  6. Build and test a prototype.
  7. Redesign.
  8. Repeat the process.

These steps are much more lax than those of the scientific method, since there is more leeway for creativity and variation within the steps. One person’s constraints may be that they must stay under $1000, but another person may have no constraints at all. Similarly, one person may design a prototype on paper while another may use a modeling program. The flexibility of these steps is what makes the engineering design process differ greatly from the scientific method. However, they do share some similarities. A picture of the engineering design process is below, followed by a venn diagram, comparing the engineering design process to the scientific method.

EDP Graphic2Small.png

Engineering Design Process. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://sites.google.com/a/ashland.k12.ma.us/ams-stem/_/rsrc/1467891955085/engineering-design-process/EDP%20Graphic2Small.png

The Engineering Design Process. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/engineering-design-process/engineering-design-process-steps

Engineering Design Process. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.teachengineering.org/k12engineering/designprocess

Helmenstine, P. A. (2017, March 30). Simple Explanation of the Scientific Method Steps. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.thoughtco.com/steps-of-the-scientific-method-p2-606045

Plotting Data from a Database. (2012, October 15). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.jpowered.com/php-scripts/adv-graph-chart/demo/examples/database-vertical-bar-graph.png

Scientific method. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/scientific-method?s=t

Steps of the Scientific Method. (2010, January 27). Retrieved from http://astro1.panet.utoledo.edu/~ljc/ScientificMethod.htm

Tench, B. (2008, November 17). The Smartwool Experiment. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/overview_scientific_method2.gif?w=240