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How does curiosity and persistence affect the creation process?


How can you create a prototype the test and evaluate?


Now that a design solution has been selected, it’s time to turn the idea into something tangible. Many times, solutions that seem perfect on paper may not function as imagined. Therefore, it is imperative to develop models and prototypes to test your design solutions. Although the terms “model” and “prototype” are commonly interchanged, each serves a unique purpose in the engineering design process.

Models. Models are used to demonstrate or simply explain the look and feel of a design solution. A model can be constructed from cardboard, clay, paper or a variety of other elements. Ultimately, the model does not need to function. Models can be miniature in nature or true to scale.

Prototypes. Prototypes are used to test the overall function of a design solution. It’s not uncommon for many prototypes to be designed and tested before a design solution is finalized. Creating prototypes allow for engineers to discover unexpected flaws in buildability, functionality and usability.

Ultimately, the creation process requires engineers to explore alternative design options, test various theories, check performance indicators and confirm the final design is user- friendly and safe.

Before construction of models or prototypes, engineers typically develop a series of sketches. Sketches can vary from hand drawn and rough to digital and scaled. However, every sketch should be labeled with specific descriptions.

Effective engineering drawings should include the following essential elements:

  • Geometry – object’s shape viewed from various angles (front, top side, etc.)

  • Dimensions – object’s size in established units (centimeters, inches, yards, etc.)

  • Tolerances – the amount in which the dimensions can vary

  • Material – object’s make up

  • Scale - designated ratio of a distance on the sketch to the equivalent distance on the actual object. 

Initial sketches will evolve as construction progresses due to material, size and other element adjustments. Each failure will bring change to the overall design solution.

Life application: Remind students, failure is necessary for success. It should not be viewed as a negative experience but a positive one. With every failure comes growth and improvement.


Upon completion of this lesson, students will develop the skills through which they may:

  • Understand the difference between a model and a prototype.

  • Create basic engineering drawings, including sketches and computer-aided designs (CAD).

  • Compare and contrast the use of various construction materials in the development of prototypes.

  • Create models and prototypes using appropriate manufacturing tools.

Click HERE to see the full lesson plan with activities. 

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