The Engineering Design Process:
The Engineering Design Process is designed itself to help outline how engineers (or anyone really) can solve a problem. We used this process when making the spinning tops in class, even if we did not know it at the time. Now let's go through it using the example of creating a spinning top, like we did in class.
We Defined the Problem when we were given instructions: make a top.
We had already done Background Research when we were working on understanding moments of inertia, it is determined by different equations for different objects, mostly relating to the radius of the object, or the length from where the object is revolving around.
Our Specified Requirements were that it stood up long enough to be considered a top and that it was made only from the limited materials we were given.
As a team, we Brainstormed and chose a solution that we put the pennies on the plate, and put the pencil in the middle, so that it would allow the pencil to stay upright. We then used that solution to develop a prototype, and we went through testing our solutions and based on our results, we made changes to our design. We found that moving the pennies closer to the base of the pencil allowed it to stay upright a lot longer.
This process was repeated until we finally found a suitable final product, however, any design could always be better.
The Engineering Design Process does not ensure a positive result every time, perhaps your results find that there is not a possible solution with the limited resources or knowledge that you have, in that case you would still communicate your results so others can see what you did and possibly come up with a better result. For example, we made a top that worked well, but another group found something that we didn't, if you cut the pencil down to make it shorter, it would stay up even longer, this is because the pencil tends to fall less when the radius is shorter (the pencil moved more about the top than the bottom, so making it shorter solved this problem).