The Engineering Design Process and Innovation


  Have you ever found yourself in a similar scenario?

Your parents leave you alone for the first time and the first thing

you do is spill red soda on your mother's favorite, brand new, white rug. 

You swallow hard.  You must figure out how to clean the stain and return it

to its original condition before your parents get home tomorrow.  And then,

just maybe when you have time to get creative, you will work on inventing a

contraption that evaporates stains within seconds, void of tears, panic,

experimenting with solutions, scrubbing and exacerbating the stain, and on

and on.  But, then you would have to know the engineering design

process, and you can’t think about that right now because you are in a panic!


You're broke so you can't buy a new rug.  You  

don't have a car or driver's license.  You don't have anyone else to blame

this on – no pets, little brothers or sisters, and of course, no one would

believe you if you blamed it on a Narnian, stray unicorn running through the

house with the main purpose of toppling over your red soda. Would your parents

believe Chuck Norris knocked down the door with the intent to spar with you?

No, probably not. Well, you do know your mom has numerous cleaning supplies

and other household items stored in the laundry room, and as you mentally scan

all the products, you hear the words of your science teacher echoing through

your brain. You try to block it, but it pounds through that thick skull of yours.


"You're going to need to use the scientific method someday!  You actually use

this method a lot and are not aware of it.  You will soon find out what you can

accomplish when you become more aware of applying your background knowledge

to new situations."  


You mutter weird words at the thought of your teacher but realize the task of

cleaning the rug is crucial in order to see your next birthday, much less

keep that phone you sleep with. Yeah, we know you sleep with that phone because

it's essential you stay connected. You may miss something, and you just never

know when someone might really need you. But, that's another story.

What do you do first?  Then what? What if you make a mistake?  How do you decide when to stop? 

Do you rush in and make the stain permanent or even worse? 

Time for some action!


TASK - Inventions & Innovations... Get ready to SCAMPER

Task #1:

Independently, look around the classroom and identify at least three inventions.  All inventions should have a U.S. patent number.  Find out what a patent is and how to look one up by visiting the following sites:

When you have identified an invention with a patent, complete the following steps:

Step 1: In your Engineering Notebook, write down the name of the item, the patent number, and basic information after searching the patent.  Try to identify at least 3 items.

Step 2:  Brainstorm ways you can improve upon this invention.  Write these ideas down in your Engineering Notebook.

*****REMEMBER to add "Inventions" to your Table of Contents*****

[Go to the "Process" section at top. Complete the "Process #1" BEFORE doing TASK #2 below.]


Task #2 - What's the difference between Invention & Innovation?  

(Begin AFTER you have completed PROCESS #1)

Well, by now you should have discerned that an invention is a brand new creation designed to solve a problem or address a need and an innovation is an improvement on an invention - something that already exists.  Watch the following video on the Engineering Design Process: 

[Go to the "Process" section at top. Complete the "Process #2" BEFORE doing TASK #3 below.]


Task #3: Design Squad Videos

(Begin AFTER you have completed PROCESS #2)

Watch the videos from the following link:

Take notes on at least five videos that you watch in your Engineering Design Notebook.

[Go to the "Process" section at top. Complete the "Process #3"]

Process #1 - Time to Scamper

(Begin AFTER you have completed task #1)


Step 1:  Refer to your Engineering Notebook and your 3 inventions and brainstormed ways to improve them.  Try and improve them some more until your brain hurts because you have exhausted all possible ways to make them better.  Think of how you can substitute or combine parts.  How can you modify and adapt certain components?  What other ways can you use this item?  Write as much as you can... until your hand begins to cramp.  Now, your brain and hand should hurt.  Yay!  You're right where I want you.  

Step 2:  Choose one item you think you can improve upon the most and sketch a picture (In your Notebook) of the item with your improvements ... do the best you can.  I know you are not Picaso.  Or, on second thought, perhaps you are the next Picaso, Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, or Botticelli.  There is a lot of talent in the room.  Do you even know who these classical artists are and their impact on history and art?  Nevermind.  Back to the topic at hand.

Step 3:  Let's SCAMPER!! but what is a SCAMPER?  Never you fear.  Read below.... 

The SCAMPER Technique

Every problem invites a solution and, needless to say, there are numerous problem-solving techniques.  The SCAMPER technique, for one, uses a set of directed, idea-spurring questions to suggest some addition to, or modification of, something that already exists.  It has received much attention as a learning tool that fosters awareness, drive, fluency, flexibility, and originality. The stimulus comes from being asked to answer queries that one would not normally pose.

The changes that SCAMPER stands for are:

S-Substitute (e.g., components, materials, people)

C—Combine (e.g., mix, combine with other assemblies or services, integrate)

A—Adapt (e.g., alter, change function, use part of another element)

M—Magnify/Modify (e.g., increase or reduce in scale, change shape, modify attributes)

P—Put to other uses

E—Eliminate (e.g., remove elements, simplify, reduce to core functionality)

R—Rearrange/Reverse (e.g., turn inside out or upside down)


Help Guide to the SCAMPER Technique for writing-

Now, how do you think you can apply the SCAMPER technique to innovating?

Step 4:  Using one of the following SCAMPER graphic organizers, apply the SCAMPER technique to your innovation.  Again, this should be written in your Engineering Notebook.   


[Go back to the TASK Section at the top. Begin at "Task #2". You should NOT move on to "Process #2 below until told to do so. ]


Process #2 

(Begin AFTER you have completed task #2)

Design a Graphic Organizer, Flow Chart, or Illustration to highlight the steps of The Engineering Design Process (EDP)

Step 1:   Look at the EDP

Look into the Engineering Design Process and make sure you understand all the steps involved.  Use the following graphic organizer to help guide your research  Write down the important components - the CRITICAL STEPS - of the EDP.

Step 2:  Designing your Graphic Organizer, Flow Chart, or Illustration.

After listing the critical steps of the EDP, think how you can visually represent them in a note-taking strategy. Create your idea. Be sure to use the color pencils to make your design visually appealing.


[Go back to the TASK Section at the top. Begin at "Task #3". You should NOT move on to "Process #3 below until told to do so. ]


Process #3

(Begin AFTER you have completed task #3)

Meet Your Challenge

Read over the following three challenges.  

Choose one challenge and think about how you would begin to complete the task. In your Engineering Notebook, brainstorm solutions and design a product that solves the problem in a real world context.  


Challenge 1 -   The Confetti Launcher

Invent a device that launches a spoonful of confetti into the air. The bigger the cloud, the better.  

Challenge 2 - Get Moving Game

Invent an indoor game for one or two people that gets you moving.  

Challenge 3 - Harmless Holder

Invent a holder for six cans that’s animal-safe, sturdy, convenient, and easy to carry. 


[Go to the CONCLUSION Section at the top.]


    You will be given a grade based on the following criteria:

    Task #1: 3 inventions listed with name(3), patent #(3) , information(3), and how to improve (3) = 12 points

    Task #3: Watch 5 Design Squad Videos and take notes  = 15 points

    Process #1: Improvement (2) and Scamper (10)  = 12 points

    Process #2: Graphic Organizer/Flow Chart/Illustration = 20 Points

    Process #3: Challenge (5 points), Brainstorm (10 points), Design (10 points) = 25 points

    Conclusion: Questions = 16 Points

    Total = 100 points


    Please answer the following questions in your Engineering Notebook.

    1. In your opinion why does one invent, or create something new, or improve on a known product?

    2. Explain one concept you learned from this activity.

    3. How can you apply the design process to other areas of study and beyond (real world)?

    4. How would you change this activity if you were assigning it to a class?

    Thank you to Steffanie Grotz, Inverness Middle School. This activity was adapted from her original webquest.

    Wendy Haggerton

    Heizer Middle School