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How to Troubleshoot Car Engine Problems

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

If you want to make sure your vehicle stays in good repair, you need to at least understand the basics of engine maintenance. After all, your car’s engine is the “driving” force that keeps your vehicle smoothly navigating the roads. By learning more about car parts and engine diagnostics, you can stay on top of your car’s operational maintenance and learn how to troubleshoot problems. The following information can help you get started.

Engine Won’t Start

If you have problems starting your engine, first make sure you have gas in the car. If the fuel is sufficient, listen carefully when you attempt to start the car. Does it loudly attempt to start? If not, check the battery and the wiring. Tighten the positive and negative terminals. If they look corroded, it may be necessary to unplug and clean them before tightening them. A low battery often exhibits symptoms like dim lights, a low volume horn or slow-moving windshield wipers.

If your battery doesn’t seem to be the problem, the issue could be the starter. This component requires replacement or repair on occasion, and the vehicle won’t start without it.

If your engine has a carburetor and the engine starts and stops, check the choke for problems. Otherwise, you may need to check a number of items for a fuel-injected engine. In some cases, hose leaks, fuel pressure regulators or air valves cause start-up issues.


In some instances, your car’s engine could overheat, causing steam or smoke to pour from your car’s hood. If overheating occurs after driving a short distance, you need to inspect the following: Ignition Timer: Make sure this timer is set correctly. Thermostat and Compressor: Check the engine temperature and systems related to compression. Coolant: Make sure the engine coolant is filled to the recommended level, and check for any leaks. Head Gaskets: Cylinder head gaskets sometimes need to be replaced and can affect engine temperature. Drive Belts: Check for broken or slipped belts in the car, and replace or tighten them, as needed.

Engine Backfires

If you fire up the engine and it sounds like firecrackers go off when you accelerate, you have a problem with backfiring. In this case, you need to review the following: Valve: A valve in the engine may be broken or burned, or a broken camshaft could be the cause. Ignition Timer: The ignition timer may require adjustment. Timing Belt: A broken or slipped timing belt or chain on the camshaft requires immediate replacement. Spark Plugs: Both spark plugs and their wires require occasional replacement.

Doesn’t Accelerate

If you have problems with acceleration or stalling, check the following: Air Filter: If the filter is dirty and needs replacement, it could choke the engine. Moisture in Gas Tank: If gasoline gets water in it, the engine won’t run smoothly. Take care of the problem by emptying the gas tank and refilling it with clean gasoline. Catalytic Converters: When catalytic converters malfunction, they choke the engine. To avoid engine replacement, you need to stay on top of your engine’s operation and maintenance. Read your manufacturer’s manual carefully to learn all you can about your vehicle’s engine. Recognizing early signs of trouble can help you avoid serious repairs in the future.


brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

TRIZ vs Brainstorming: How to Achieve More Effective Engineering Designs

TRIZ and brainstorming are two different ways of thinking that engineers can use when designing products. Brainstorming is a great way to get many diverse ideas on the table, but it can be challenging to determine which ideas are feasible. TRIZ helps with more concrete and structured thinking and can help you weed out bad ideas early in the design process. You must apply both methods together to create an effective engineering design.

TRIZ is a problem-solving method that was developed in the Soviet Union. It is based on the principle of inventing solutions to problems that have already been solved. TRIZ looks at how other products or systems have been designed and uses those success stories to help solve current design problems.

There are three main stages to TRIZ:

TRIZ is different from brainstorming in a few key ways. Brainstorming is more about coming up with as many ideas as possible, while TRIZ focuses on quality over quantity. TRIZ also considers an idea's feasibility before it is implemented, while brainstorming does not typically consider this aspect.

There are several benefits to using TRIZ in design projects. TRIZ can help save time and money by identifying potential problems early in the design process. It can also help to improve communication between team members and increase overall satisfaction with the final product.

If you're interested in applying TRIZ to your designs, you can do a few things to get started:

Why do your ideas get stuck in neutral?

Count on us to help you get your team's ideas out of the garage and onto the road., the perfect way to jump-start your team's creativity., we'll help them come up with new and wonderfully lucrative ideas for your new products pipeline., key takeways, popular posts.

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NPD Jargon Buster: TRIZ (The Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving)

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How You Can Divide A Chemical Engineering Challenge Into Independent Parts Using The TRIZ Method

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How You Can Divide A Business Issue Into Smaller Independant Parts Using The TRIZ Method

Segmentation is a powerful tool that can be used by businesses to better understand their customers and tailor their products and services to meet those customers' needs.

How You Can Divide A Physical Object Into Independent Parts Using TRIZ Problem-Solving Method

This article will discuss some of the different ways segmentation can be used, and how it can benefit physical objects.

Using Segmentation To Solve Your Toughest Problems: TRIZ Principle 1

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ARIZ: A Method of Problem-Solving by Redefining and Restructuring the Problem

ARIZ is a tool for thinking in alternative directions to solve non-standard or complicated problems.

Brainstorming Sessions vs Facilitated Ideation Workshops Compared for Breakthrough Product Ideas

A lot has been said about the merits of brainstorming sessions and facilitated ideation workshops in the business world. Let's look at the pros and cons of each.

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

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The Engineering Design Process

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After reading Case Report, answer the following question.

Case Report

Ms. Tierney presents with fainting at school. She is pale. Her pulse is 90 . Blood pressure (BP) is 100 / 60 100 / 60 100/60 . She tells you that she is having a menstrual period with excessive bleeding. Her physical examination is otherwise unremarkable. She has a history of easy bruising and recurrent nosebleeds and an episode of severe bleeding after a tooth extraction. Laboratory tests reveal that she has a deficiency of von Willebrand factor (vWF). Her platelets are unable to stick together or adhere to the wall of an injured blood vessel, and a platelet plug cannot form in the lining of her uterus to help end her menstrual flow.

Von Willebrand disease (vWD) is the most common hereditary bleeding disorder. It affects at least 1 % 1 \% 1% of the population and both sexes equally.

In Ms. Tierney's current and past medical history, what symptoms are related to her blood condition?

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b. \rule{10cm}{0.15mm}

c. \rule{10cm}{0.15mm}

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brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

Brainstorm Multiple Solutions

How to Create Multiple Solutions

Why create multiple solutions.

When solving a design problem, there are always many possible good solutions. If you focus on just one before looking at the alternatives, it is almost certain that you are overlooking a better solution. Good designers try to generate as many possible solutions as they can before choosing one that they feel is the best. Even "wild and crazy" design ideas that you end up rejecting might have some pieces that can make other designs better.

Ideation, also known as idea generation, is the creative process of developing ideas. Start ideation after you have settled on a design problem that you want to solve and have done your background research, including the analysis of existing solutions. If you have not researched existing solutions, be sure to do so before starting ideation. Existing solutions are a great place to begin the ideation phase of your process because they give you a starting platform for ideas.

Generating lots of ideas is important to solving your design problem, so follow these key rules! One key rule for successful ideation is no limits. Start huge. Don't confine yourself to only one or two great ideas, and don't be afraid to think outside the box. No solutions are impossible during the ideation phase, so consider even the craziest of ideas. There will come a time later on when you will weigh your ideas against one another based on how easy they are to implement, but not yet. Ideation is the perfect time to put aside all judgment, and see how many design solutions you can come up with!

#1 Rule when Ideating: Don't settle for your first idea!

If you think you have a great solution to your problem right from the beginning, you might be tempted to stick with that original idea. Even if it's the most perfect, without-a-doubt, best possible way to solve your problem -- don't stop here! Fixating on your first idea is a terrible mistake, because it stops your creative process before it even has the chance to get going. You never know what new ideas could branch off of your original idea or what new ideas might come to you over time, so you have to give the process (and yourself) a chance.

The list are many creative techniques to help you come up with design ideas.

Existing Solutions

Existing solutions to your problem (or similar problems) are one of the best sources for creating design alternatives. Studying these designs will give you creative ideas of your own. Can the best features of existing solutions be combined in new ways? Can two entire solutions be combined to form one, better solution? Are there pieces missing from existing designs that if added, might make the designs more successful? Ask yourself these questions and see what new ideas you can come up with.

By comparing your design problem to an entirely different situation, you may notice solutions that never would have come to mind otherwise. Try to create analogies between your design problem and random objects and people. For example, ask yourself:

Choose random objects and people to create these analogies. Even though they may seem unrelated, the analogy will force your mind to come up with ideas to fit the specific cases of the random objects and people.

Example: Imagine you are designing a better lunchbox for students. Try these analogies to spark new and interesting design ideas... Analogy: How is designing a lunchbox like designing a hotel? Answer: When designing a hotel, you need to design for the people who will be staying in it. Think about the furniture, the decorations, the size of the rooms, etc. Try applying these to your lunchbox. What about the size of the lunchbox? Are there any components you could add to your lunchbox to serve as furniture-like features? Does the food in the lunchbox need furniture to sit on? You may never have considered these ideas without comparing a lunchbox to a hotel. Analogy: How would I design a lunchbox using a skateboard? Answer: You might create a lunchbox that has wheels, or a lunchbox that could be attached to a skateboard, or a skateboard that has a compartment to store food, or a lunchbox that could strap to the bottom of someone's feet. All of these are lunchbox designs that you might never have considered! Analogy: How would Facebook design a lunchbox? Answer: Facebook might design a lunchbox that you can take pictures with, or a lunchbox that has a computer screen on the inside. All of these are lunchbox designs you may never have thought about!


Group brainstorming is a great way to generate lots and lots of ideas. Ask your friends, parents, and relatives if they would be willing to help you brainstorm ideas to your design problem. Gather a few of these people together for 30 minutes to an hour and tell them about your design problem. Then, leave the rest to discussion! Keep in mind:

Sketching and Doodling

You can come up with great ideas by using all of the techniques listed, but ideation really isn't complete without sketching and doodling. Drawing is an ideal way to express your ideas and to visually connect multiple ideas to one another. Draw everything on your mind! Even if the idea is not fully developed, try to draw it and see what it looks like. Sketch all of the ideas that you have already come up with using other ideation techniques. By sketching, you will see new aspects of those ideas and be able to come up with even more.

"Sleep on It!"

Ideation isn't a one-day activity. In fact, it should be the longest phase of your entire design process. So don't feel like you need to come up with your perfect solution in one sitting. Ideate until you feel like you've run out of ideas. Then, sleep on it and return to ideation the next day or a few days after that. You will be surprised at how many more ideas you are able to come up with!

Create Multiple Solutions Checklist

Answer the questions in the quick checklist below to find out if you considered enough alternative (different) solutions.

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brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

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FREE K-12 standards-aligned STEM

curriculum for educators everywhere!

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Hands-on Activity Design Step 3: Brainstorm Possible Solutions

Grade Level: 9 (9-12)

Although the time required to complete this design loop step is flexible, realize that students often get caught up in the brainstorming/idea generating process and never move to actual idea selection if not monitored by the teacher.

Expendable Cost/Group: US $1.00

Group Size: 4

Activity Dependency: Design Step 2: Research the Problem

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

NGSS Performance Expectations:

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Curriculum in this Unit Units serve as guides to a particular content or subject area. Nested under units are lessons (in purple) and hands-on activities (in blue). Note that not all lessons and activities will exist under a unit, and instead may exist as "standalone" curriculum.

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Engineering connection, learning objectives, materials list, worksheets and attachments, more curriculum like this, introduction/motivation, vocabulary/definitions, investigating questions, troubleshooting tips, activity extensions, additional multimedia support, user comments & tips.

Engineering… designed to work wonders

Two students at a table look at project solution ideas written on a large sheet of paper and applied sticky notes.

Brainstorming is a helpful technique for group projects, especially for teams needing to break out of the same pattern of thinking and develop a new way of viewing something. Engineering teams are usually composed of a diverse mix of individuals, including engineers with expertise in different disciplines, as well as other professionals. Brainstorming allows teams to tap into all the expertise in the group to develop the most successful solution to a design challenge. Some engineering companies specialize in brainstorming unique solutions to design challenges.

After this activity, students should be able to:

Educational Standards Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards. All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) , a project of D2L ( In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g. , by state; within source by type; e.g. , science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc .

Ngss: next generation science standards - science, international technology and engineering educators association - technology.

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Each group needs:

For the whole class to share:

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

As students learn about the creation of biodomes, they are introduced to the steps of the engineering design process, including guidelines for brainstorming. They learn how engineers are involved in the design and construction of biodomes and use brainstorming to come up with ideas for possible biod...

preview of 'Biodomes are Engineered Ecosystems: A Mini World' Lesson

Students are introduced to the engineering design process, focusing on the concept of brainstorming design alternatives. They learn that engineering is about designing creative ways to improve existing artifacts, technologies or processes, or developing new inventions that benefit society.

preview of 'Time for Design' Lesson

Students apply the mechanical advantages and problem-solving capabilities of six types of simple machines (wedge, wheel and axle, lever, inclined plane, screw, pulley) as they discuss modern structures in the spirit of the engineers and builders of the great pyramids.

preview of 'Simple Machines and Modern Day Engineering Analogies' Lesson

The Olympics are introduced as the unit theme by describing the engineering required to build grand and complex event centers. Then students are introduced to the techniques of engineering problem solving, specifically brainstorming and the steps of the engineering design process.

preview of 'Olympic Engineering: Design Process to Create Competition Venues' Lesson

(Have an overhead transparency of the Brainstorming Guidelines Handout ready to display in a prominent place in the classroom, or else make copies of the guidelines to use as handouts.)

By this point, you should have a good understanding of your design challenge. You and your team have worked to define the problem, identify the project's constraints and requirements, and complete some background research.

Now, let's begin the process of thinking about solutions to the design challenge. To do this, engineers often use a technique called "brainstorming." Brainstorming is a team creativity activity that helps you generate a large number of potential solutions to a problem or challenge. It can be helpful when you need to break out of the same pattern of thinking and develop a new way of looking at something.

When we are working to first come up with ideas, we want to keep open minds and encourage all ideas — even if they don't seem realistic. We want to withhold criticism of our ideas and those from our team members. Also, when we brainstorm, we are striving for quantity of ideas, not quality. Think of it like you are dragging a big net through the ocean in hopes of catching a king salmon. While a big net scoops up many little fish in the process, it also improves your chances that you will find your main prize!

Brainstorming is meant to encourage creative thinking; however, some basic ground rules make it more successful. Let's take a look at these before we divide into our groups for some team brainstorming. (Show the brainstorming guidelines by overhead projection or handout.)

Who has heard the expression "focus on quality — not quantity"? Most of the time you do want to focus more on the quality of your work and less on how fast you can complete it. Brainstorming, in contrast, asks you to focus on quantity, not quality. The purpose is to collect as many ideas as possible, even if they seem ridiculous. We do this because often, wild ideas lead to the most innovative designs. Later in the design challenge you will have time to focus on the quality and practicality of your design.

Remember to record all of your ideas; you do not want to forget an idea that could become useful later. Also, build on the ideas of others. It is good to work together as a team to develop a possible solution, instead of selecting one person's idea. In engineering, the best ideas are generally a team effort. Sometimes, this can start a snowball effect of additional ideas, so remember to stay focused on the design problem you are working on right now; you will have time to explore other ideas once you have finished working on this one.

Most importantly, when you are brainstorming, remember to withhold criticism of any ideas, including your own. Don't worry about saying something that seems silly or unrealistic. Silly ideas can lead to excellent creative design solutions!

(Note: After conclusion of this activity, proceed to the next activity in the series, Design Step 4: Select a Promising Solution Using Engineering Analysis .)

Brainstorming is a group creativity technique used to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The process itself can boost morale, enhance work enjoyment, and improve team dynamics. Suggested brainstorming guidelines include:

Teams in which students are unfamiliar with each other may show apprehension toward sharing ideas and "letting loose" in a brainstorming session. Remind students that brainstorming is a time to be creative, and even silly! Use the questions suggested in the Investigating Questions section to help groups break the ice and make sure the brainstorming ground rules are followed.

Before the Activity (Teacher Prep)

With the Students: Introduction & Set-Up

1. Introduce the concept of brainstorming by leading the Introduction/Motivation section.

2. Use the Brainstorming Guidelines Handout to review the brainstorming ground rules.

3. Lead the pre-activity assessment (as described in the Assessment section) to help students capture the design challenge in a specific question. This exercise asks students to reflect on their design project and develop one question that captures the essence or basics of the design challenge.

With the Students: Team Brainstorming

4. Give each team a big piece of paper and a few markers.

5. Ask teams to write their specific design challenge question from Step 3 (above) across the top of their papers.

6. Initiate the brainstorming process by reviewing the brainstorming techniques presented in the overhead transparency or handout (and the Procedure-Background section).

7. Invite teams to begin brainstorming with words or quick sketches using their poster-sized paper and markers.

8. Direct students to write and draw legibly and large enough so their sketches and annotations will be able to be seen by the rest of the class from the front of the room.

9. Give the teams ~20 to 30 minutes to brainstorm. Encourage them to cover the paper with ideas.

10. If teams become stuck, ask them to jot down opposites or jot down things that are only slightly related. Just keep them moving and associating.

11. When time is up, ask teams to cluster their ideas by circling terms that seem related and drawing lines between the terms.

12. Have teams continue the clustering process until they have created associations among most terms. Some terms may be left un-circled, but might still be useful.

13. Ask teams to use magnets or tape to hang their brainstorming posters on a classroom wall or the chalkboard.

With the Students: Class Brainstorming

14. Give each person several sticky notes in two colors. For example, if the class is composed of six teams, give each student five blue sticky notes and five pink sticky notes.

15. Indicate that the blue sticky notes are to be "ideas I like," and the pink sticky notes are to be "questions or suggestions for improvement."

16. Ask each team to come to the front of the room and explain their brainstorming posters to the rest of the class.

17. After each team has presented, ask students to "roam the room" and look at each others' posters to find ideas they like and identify a question or suggestion for improvement.

18. Ask students to write these comments on the sticky notes and post them on the other teams' brainstorming papers at the spot where the idea or concept is written .

19. Once everyone has finished posting their sticky notes, have each team reflect on the feedback they received via the sticky notes, as described in the activity embedded assessment (see the Assessment section).

20. Have students save their brainstorming posters with comments so they may refer to them as the project progresses.

21. Lead the post-activity assessment (as described in the Assessment section) with the students. In this activity wrap up, students prepare outlines that incorporate the brainstorming data into larger ideas. These ideas may also be recorded in paragraphs to begin a first draft of a design description.

brainstorming: A team creativity activity with the purpose to generate a large number of potential solutions to a design challenge.

Pre-Activity Assessment

Capture the Challenge: It helps facilitate the brainstorming activity if the class, as a whole, first arrives at a common understanding of the design challenge. Ask teams to spend a few minutes defining the design challenge in their own words. Write each team's response on the board and then work with the students to combine ideas to come up with one question that captures the essence or basics of the design challenge. For example, our example project on designing prosthetics might ask:

Activity-Embedded Assessment

Team Reflection: Once teams are finished giving each other feedback using the sticky notes, ask them to write answers to the following questions on the backs of their brainstorming posters.

Post-Activity Assessment

After the Storm: Ask teams to start filling in the gaps between the ideas they have just brainstormed. Have students prepare an outline that incorporates as much of the brainstorming data that seems logical. Have them also start to write out some larger groups of sentences or full paragraphs to expand upon the smaller clusters and phrases. Suggest they quickly sketch some descriptions if that better illustrates their ideas. From this, they can start to write larger sections of first draft descriptions of their designs. Remind students that they do not have to start at the "beginning" of their brainstorming sequence. Encourage them to focus on the section that comes together most easily.

Use these questions as a "warm up session" or to break the ice with unfamiliar team members and make sure the brainstorming ground rules are understood.

Be alert for team problems with brainstorming, such as distraction and evaluation apprehension. Discourage criticism of ideas. Remind students that in brainstorming, no idea or suggestion is "silly." All ideas should be respectfully heard. This is the time to be uncritical and build on each others' ideas.

When creativity begins to taper during a brainstorming session, a teacher or facilitator can stimulate creativity by asking the group questions such as: "What if you combine these ideas?" and "Can you rank these ideas from silliest to most serious?"

Students often get caught up in the brainstorming/idea generating step of the engineering design loop and never move to actual selection of one idea, so monitor their progress and keep them moving towards this goal.

Practice, Practice! It is always good (and fun!) to have students practice brainstorming ideas in teams. For a quick warm-up activity or to fill extra time at the end of a class period, give student teams a hypothetical design challenge to brainstorm for 10 minutes. Then, have them share some of their solution ideas with the class. Some example challenges include a bedroom security system, a new desk organizer, an improved backpack, etc.

IDEO is a worldwide engineering design and innovation consulting firm, known for digging deep and creatively to find unique solutions to design challenges. See more at . Show students the motivating eight-minute NBC Nightline segment on IDEO's innovation process (see brainstorming and use of sticky notes around minute 4) as they redesign a shopping cart at: .

Yowell, J.L. and Carlson, D.W., Eds., Introductory Engineering Design: A Projects-Based Approach, Third Edition, Textbook for GEEN 1400: First-Year Engineering Projects, Integrated Program, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, Fall 2000. Accessed April 8, 2010.


Supporting program, acknowledgements.

The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: June 22, 2021

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Why the Engineering Design Process is Important

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

Learn all about the engineering design process, including how to manage an engineering design throughout a project’s life cycle in 11 steps.

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

If you work in engineering, you know how important processes are to the success of major projects. A structured process will describe how a task should be completed for the outcome to be successful. 

Structured processes can help engineers progress through a project’s life cycle. Process-oriented engineers are known to reduce project costs, produce high-quality projects, and deliver reliable products to their customers. One of the best ways you can become a process-oriented engineer is by using the engineering design process. 

Read on to learn about the engineering design process, why it’s important, and the 11 steps you can take to implement the system in your work. 

What is the engineering design process? 

Why is the engineering design process important , steps in the engineering design process .

The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineers follow to find a solution to a problem. The process combines mathematics, applied science, and engineering sciences to optimize and meet the requirements needed for the project to succeed. 

The steps in the engineering design process aren’t always followed in a particular order, but when adjusted based on a team’s needs, they can be used to evaluate which course of action will lead to the highest chance of success. 

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

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brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

There are endless benefits to the engineering design process. Since the process is based on objective raw data, it can add structure to your projects, help you make decisions, and solve problems without bias. 

It can also help you view your past experiences in a different light. The process teaches you that setbacks and failures can be useful sources of future data. Additionally, the engineering design process can help you break big decisions into smaller, more manageable steps. 

1 Outline a problem

The first step of the process is defining the problem you want to solve. If you’re designing a product, you would select the target audience and identify why it’s important to find a solution. You might also ask what potential issues you could run into as you move through the rest of the process and what the limitations of the final product will be. During this step, ask critical questions that will help you determine current and future challenges. 

2 Conduct research 

Conduct research on what your team and others have done before that can help you move forward with this project. Speak to colleagues, engineers in your professional network, and other individuals who have worked on similar projects to gain insight. This step is important because it will introduce you to possibilities you may not have considered. 

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” — Zora Neale Hurston , American author

3 Hold a brainstorming session 

The third step in the engineering design process is to use brainstorming techniques as a group to find solutions to the problems you’ve identified previously. Brainstorming leads to creative thought and encourages team members to share their unique ideas, no matter how out there they may seem. During your team brainstorming session, develop possible solutions in a list format. Let the ideas flow and try not to judge the proposed designs at this stage. 

Did you know that we have distilled everything you need to know about meetings into ready-to-use templates? Use our brainstorm session agenda template by Shopify to run productive and inclusive brainstorming sessions with your team.


4 Decide on criteria

Now that you’ve outlined potential solutions and have completed the research phase, establish the criteria you’ll use to see if your product is successful. It’s during this stage that you should establish what factors could constrain your work moving forward. Criteria may include the cost, the scope, and the time it takes to deliver the final product. If it’s helpful, revisit the work you completed in the previous steps to see if any ideas are relevant now. 

5 Establish clear next steps

The fifth step of the engineering design process is to establish the concrete next steps each individual on the team needs to take to move forward with the project. During this stage, leaders on the team should assign clear action items to each person involved. Action items can be delegated during a team meeting and should live in a project management tool (like Fellow!) where everyone can see progress in real-time.   

“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eyes fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.” — Dag Hammarskjöld , former Secretary-General of the United Nations

With Fellow, you can assign, visualize, and prioritize all your meeting to-dos in one place and sync them with tools like Jira, Asana, and Zapier. Additionally, Fellow makes it easy to visualize and organize your upcoming tasks in the action items section, so you can focus on your priorities and start each day feeling in control.

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

6 Consider alternatives

Good solutions aren’t possible without good alternatives. Generate a list of potential alternatives that could effectively solve the problem identified in step one. Having a carefully thought out set of alternatives along with a detailed document that outlines their consequences, key differences from your chosen solution, and the potential response from customers, clients, and stakeholders with respect to the trade offs can make all the difference. Considering other options at this stage will make it easier to determine solutions for future challenges. 

7 Develop a proposal 

Refine and improve your solution with a design proposal. A proposal will include materials like reports, drawings, objectives, statements, and models. This step may be ongoing throughout the project’s life cycle. For example, if you’re creating a product for a client, you may develop multiple proposals for different ideas suggested during the brainstorming stage. Your proposals should include the project background, objectives, methodologies, deliverables, and a proposed timeline. 

8 Create a prototype

Creating a prototype has many advantages, but most importantly, it simulates the real future product. If you’re creating a prototype to show a client or customer, this stage will help you determine if there are any changes that need to be made before allocating the resources needed for implementation. It also gives your team the opportunity to test the design’s correctness and check for errors before putting it into production. 

If the goal of your product is to be mass-produced for consumers, having a good prototype will be an attractive feature for investors. Investors want to see the product in its physical form; they aren’t interested in spending money on a device that could work, so be sure to invest in a quality model. 

“Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.” — Diego Rodriguez , business designer and enginee

9 Test and evaluate the prototype

The ninth step is to test your prototype to see how the final product will perform. Prototypes are often made from different materials than the final version, so make sure that your prototypes are made of high quality materials so they operate as similarly as possible to the eventual final product. If possible, have future users test the prototype and provide your team with feedback about the product. The testing phase is the perfect opportunity to iron out last-minute details and ensure everyone will be happy with the final product. 

10 Refine and reevaluate 

Now that the testing phase is complete, your team can revise and improve the product. This step can be repeated several times based on the feedback you receive from teammates, management, clients, customers, investors, and stakeholders. 

It’s at this stage that your team’s communication skills will be put to the test. Creating any product requires a team of engineers who can effectively communicate their ideas and concepts with one another. During the refining and reevaluating stage, you may have conflicting feedback, but team members will ultimately have to come together as one to determine what the final product should look like. 

11 Create the solution and communicate your results 

The final stage of the engineering design process is to decide upon and create your finished solution for the product—this may take the form of a polished prototype, for example. Once the product is complete, communicate your results in the form of a report or presentation, or by using another method. Keeping sufficient documentation at this stage will help you bring the finished product to manufacturers if necessary. 

Parting advice

The engineering design process sets a path forward for engineering teams to execute both small—and large-scale ideas. While the process is highly iterative, with parts that may need to be repeated many times before others can begin, it can create the foundation for an incredible final product. 

The next time you and your team are tasked with a project, follow our 11 steps to give yourself a high chance of success.

Tips for high-performing leaders

Calendar-synced agendas for meetings and 1-on-1s, fellow is the only easy-to-use meeting agenda software your team will love 💙.

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

About the author

Brier is a communications professional and freelance content writer based in Ottawa. She currently works as an Engagement Strategy Advisor for Carleton University. She is passionate about using creative marketing to solve business challenges. In her spare time, she’s either reading fiction, trying out a new fitness class, playing guitar, or cooking a recipe from TikTok.

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3 What is Problem Solving?

Chapter table of contents, what is problem solving.

Developing Problem Solving Processes

Summary of strategies, problem solving:  an important job skill.

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

The ability to solve problems is a basic life skill and is essential to our day-to-day lives, at home, at school, and at work. We solve problems every day without really thinking about how we solve them. For example: it’s raining and you need to go to the store. What do you do? There are lots of possible solutions. Take your umbrella and walk. If you don’t want to get wet, you can drive, or take the bus. You might decide to call a friend for a ride, or you might decide to go to the store another day. There is no right way to solve this problem and different people will solve it differently.

Problem solving is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action.

Why is problem solving important? Good problem solving skills empower you not only in your personal life but are critical in your professional life. In the current fast-changing global economy, employers often identify everyday problem solving as crucial to the success of their organizations. For employees, problem solving can be used to develop practical and creative solutions, and to show independence and initiative to employers.

what does problem solving look like?

brainstorming is the problem solving method engineers use most

The ability to solve problems is a skill at which you can improve.  So how exactly do you practice problem solving? Learning about different problem solving strategies and when to use them will give you a good start. Problem solving is a process. Most strategies provide steps that help you identify the problem and choose the best solution. There are two basic types of strategies: algorithmic and heuristic.

Algorithmic strategies are traditional step-by-step guides to solving problems. They are great for solving math problems (in algebra: multiply and divide, then add or subtract) or for helping us remember the correct order of things (a mnemonic such as “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to remember which way the clock changes for daylight saving time, or “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey” to remember what direction to turn bolts and screws). Algorithms are best when there is a single path to the correct solution.

But what do you do when there is no single solution for your problem? Heuristic methods are general guides used to identify possible solutions. A popular one that is easy to remember is IDEAL [Bransford & Stein [1] ] :

IDEAL is just one problem solving strategy. Building a toolbox of problem solving strategies will improve your problem solving skills. With practice, you will be able to recognize and use multiple strategies to solve complex problems.

What is the best way to get a peanut out of a tube that cannot be moved? Watch a chimpanzee solve this problem in the video below [Geert Stienissen [2] ].

Problem solving is a process that uses steps to solve problems. But what does that really mean? Let's break it down and start building our toolbox of problem solving strategies.

What is the first step of solving any problem? The first step is to recognize that there is a problem and identify the right cause of the problem. This may sound obvious, but similar problems can arise from different events, and the real issue may not always be apparent. To really solve the problem, it's important to find out what started it all. This is called identifying the root cause .

Example: You and your classmates have been working long hours on a project in the school's workshop. The next afternoon, you try to use your student ID card to access the workshop, but discover that your magnetic strip has been demagnetized. Since the card was a couple of years old, you chalk it up to wear and tear and get a new ID card. Later that same week you learn that several of your classmates had the same problem! After a little investigation, you discover that a strong magnet was stored underneath a workbench in the workshop. The magnet was the root cause of the demagnetized student ID cards.

The best way to identify the root cause of the problem is to ask questions and gather information. If you have a vague problem, investigating facts is more productive than guessing a solution. Ask yourself questions about the problem. What do you know about the problem? What do you not know? When was the last time it worked correctly? What has changed since then? Can you diagram the process into separate steps? Where in the process is the problem occurring? Be curious, ask questions, gather facts, and make logical deductions rather than assumptions.

When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money. Although, each path in this exercise ended with a description of a problem solving tool for your toolbox, the first step is always to identify the problem and define the context in which it happened.

There are several strategies that can be used to identify the root cause of a problem. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred. RCA uses a specific set of steps, with associated tools like the “5 Why Analysis" or the “Cause and Effect Diagram,” to identify the origin of the problem, so that you can:

Once the underlying cause is identified and the scope of the issue defined, the next step is to explore possible strategies to fix the problem.

If you are not sure how to fix the problem, it is okay to ask for help. Problem solving is a process and a skill that is learned with practice. It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and that no one knows everything. Life is about learning. It is okay to ask for help when you don’t have the answer. When you collaborate to solve problems you improve workplace communication and accelerates finding solutions as similar problems arise.

One tool that can be useful for generating possible solutions is brainstorming . Brainstorming is a technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can, in a fixed amount of time. Although brainstorming is best done in a group, it can be done individually.

Depending on your path through the exercise, you may have discovered that a couple of your coworkers had experienced similar problems. This should have been an indicator that there was a larger problem that needed to be addressed.

In any workplace, communication of problems and issues (especially those that involve safety) is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they be addressed in an efficient and timely manner.  Because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money; effective communication is an important tool..

One strategy for improving communication is the huddle . Just like football players on the field, a huddle is a short meeting with everyone standing in a circle.   It's always important that team members are aware of how their work impacts one another.  A daily team huddle is a great way to ensure that as well as making team members aware of changes to the schedule or any problems or safety issues that have been identified. When done right, huddles create collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. Impromptu huddles can be used to gather information on a specific issue and get each team member's input.

"Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.” — Richard Sloma

Problem solving improves efficiency and communication on the shop floor. It increases a company's efficiency and profitability, so it's one of the top skills employers look for when hiring new employees.  Employers consider professional skills, such as problem solving, as critical to their business’s success.

The 2011 survey, "Boiling Point? The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing [3] ," polled over a thousand manufacturing executives who reported that the number one skill deficiency among their current employees is problem solving, which makes it difficult for their companies to adapt to the changing needs of the industry.

Introduction to Industrial Engineering by Bonnie Boardman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Engineering Method

The engineering method (also known as engineering design) is a systematic approach used to reach the desired solution to a problem. There are six steps (or phases): idea, concept, planning, design, development, and launch from problem definition to desired result.

Engineering Method. Source: Ronald L. Lasser

The engineering method has six steps (or phases):

The development step is often divided to include the iterative cycle of build, test, debug, and redesign. The engineering method by nature is an iterative process.

The idea phase usually begins with a problem. The problem statement is typically only vaguely defined and requires research into its viability and its feasibility. Viability suggests that there is significant value (or demand in the case of product development) in pursing the solution. Feasibility serves as a check on whether the idea can be realized. Feasibility may be high, medium, or low: where high feasibility means that people, technology, and time resources are readily available or known; medium is that resources may not be available directly, but can be found; and low means the resources may be rare or do not exist. The most critical part of the idea phase is to define the problem, validate its value, and identify the customer who desires its solution.

The concept phase is about generating numerous models (mathematical, physical, simulation, simple drawings or sketches), all of which should convey that the solution meets the customer’s expectations or requirements. The numerous concepts are generated using brainstorming techniques, which are review sessions in which elements of one concept are recombined with elements from other in an effort to find a single concept that fits best. Typical design judgment and compromise are required to merge concepts. The concept phase ends with a selection of a single concept.

3. Planning

The planning phase is about defining the implementation plan: identifying the people, tasks, task durations, task dependencies, task interconnections, and budget required to get the project done. Many tools are used to convey this information to team members and other stakeholders including Gantt and Pert charts, resource loading spreadsheets, sketches, drawings, proof-of-concept models to validate that the project can be successfully completed.

One critical tool of the planning phase is the system engineering diagram. This diagram shows the solution as an interconnection of smaller and less complicated sub-systems. A system engineering diagram establishes all the inputs and outputs for each module, as well as the way in which the module transforms the inputs into outputs.

The design phase is where “the rubber meets the road.” Details are specified; specifications are established. Some call this phase “design planning” and the development phase “detailed design.” But no matter what it is called, the purpose of this phase is to translate the customer requirements and systems engineering model into engineering specifications that an engineer (designer) can work with to design and build a working prototype. Specifications are detailed using a number with associated units, e.g., 4 volts, or 3.82 inches, or 58 Hz, or a completion time of 22 days.

5. Development

The purpose of development is to generate the engineering documentation: schematics, drawings, source code, and other design information into a working prototype that demonstrates the solution to the problem. The solution may be a tangible working prototype or an intangible working simulation. Of course, nothing works the first time, so this part of the process tends to be more iterative than the other phases. Specifically, it consists of the iterative cycle: design, test, debug, and redesign. If the project had earlier delays or is not on the planned schedule for other reasons, then this time may be the most frantic since the customer deadline may be closely looming.

While testing and debug are often consider a separate phase, most times they occur side-by-side with development as a design morphs from a concept to an artifact. The latter is recommended, reserving time at the end of development for a final test to confirm the desired result meets customer expectation and designer’s intent. Testing is the verification and validation phase where the concept meets both the anticipated design specifications and the customer’s requirements of the solution. Testing is achieved through experiments—an information-gathering method where dissimilarity and difference are assessed with respect to the design’s present and compared to desired state for the design. The purpose of an experiment is to determine whether test results agree or conflict with the a priori stated behavior. A sufficient numbers of successful testing verifications and validations are necessary to generate acceptable results and to reduce any risk that the desired behavior is present and functions as expected. If the test observations and results do not agree, then a debug process is necessary to identify the root causes and begin corrective action to resolve the discrepancies.

Launch includes the release of the engineering design and documentation package to manufacturing facilities for production. At this point, all qualification testing is complete, and the working prototype has demonstrated functionality.

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