The 2010 National Academy of Engineering report Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? [1] concluded that it is not appropriate at present to develop standalone K-12 engineering standards. But the report also made it clear that engineering concepts and skills are already embedded in existing standards for science and technology education, at both the state and national levels—and the report recommended that this practice continue. In addition, it affirmed the value of teaching engineering ideas, particularly engineering design, to young students.

In line with those conclusions and recommendations, the goal of this section of the framework—and of this chapter—is not to replace current K-12 engineering and technology courses. The chapter’s goal is rather to strengthen the science education provided to K-12 students by making the connections between engineering, technology, and applications of science explicit, both for standards developers and curriculum developers. In that way, we hope to ensure that all students, whatever their path through K-12 education, gain an appreciation of these connections.

Core Idea ETS1

Engineering Design

How do engineers solve problems?

The design process—engineers’ basic approach to problem solving—involves many different practices. They include problem definition, model development and use, investigation, analysis and interpretation of data, application of mathematics and computational thinking, and determination of solutions. These engineering practices incorporate specialized knowledge about criteria and constraints, modeling and analysis, and optimization and trade-offs.


What is a design for?
What are the criteria and constraints of a successful solution?

The engineering design process begins with the identification of a problem to solve and the specification of clear goals, or criteria, that the final product or system must meet. Criteria, which typically reflect the needs of the expected end-user of a technology or process, address such things as how the product or system will function (what job it will perform and how), its durability, and its cost. Criteria should be quantifiable whenever possible and stated so that one can tell if a given design meets them.

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