Engineers are problem solvers, inventors, “big picture” thinkers and good communicators. They use science, maths and technology to solve real world problems. You can find out more about what engineers do at Engineers’ Australia’s website: What is Engineering?
When you enter the Science and Engineering Investigation Awards, you can choose to do an Engineering Design Project or an Engineering Investigation. The similarities and differences between these types of projects are outlined below. You can also see a side by side comparison at Science Buddies.
Engineering Design Projects
The Engineering Design process is used to create physical solutions (prototypes) to address very specific problems or needs.
If you are planning an Engineering Design project, questions you should consider include:
- Is there a specific problem or need?
- Why is it important to solve?
- Is there only one possible solution, or several? Brain storm solutions.
- Can a prototype be developed?
- Once a prototype is developed, does it work or do changes need to be made?
- Does the final version of prototype provide a solution?
If the objective of your project is to solve a problem through designing a prototype or inventing a new product, then it makes sense to follow the Engineering Design process.
Engineering Investigation Projects
An Engineering investigation identifies a need, opportunity or problem, creates a hypothesis and then tests that hypothesis using the scientific method.
If you are planning an Engineering Investigation project, questions you should consider include:
- What is the question you are trying to answer?
- What background information do you need to know to help answer the question?
- What is your hypothesis (if/then statement)?
- How will you test your hypothesis? What experiment/s will you do?
- Do your results support your hypothesis?
All investigation projects aim to discover cause and effect relationships, including those related to Engineering. These projects use the scientific method to make sure that results and conclusions are both valid and relevant.