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Product Development

Design and Build |Manufacturing and Distribution | Marketing
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Design and Build
Problem-Solving and Research

You should have already completed some of the initial steps in the invention/engineering design processby identifying a need or a problem to be solved and brainstorming some possible solutions. You may want to refer to your notes from these activities as you continue following the steps in your invention/engineering design process.

Use the strategies and tools below to help you identify requirements and constraints, explore and evaluate possibilities, develop and select a solution and plan your approach to designing the invention. Remember to record your ideas, sketches, and design activities in your inventor's log book.

Problem-solving:

  • Problem Board (NASA SciFiles) - Use this simple organizer to begin thinking about what you know about the problem, what you need to know, and where to get information about the problem.
  • Idea Web - One way to identify what information you need to find before designing an invention is to break down the problem statement or "need" into an idea web. An idea web starts with the main need or problem in the middle, then branches to represent different parts of the problem, such as audience, requirements, constraints, and questions. Often, new questions arise, requiring the inventor to do additional background research in order to answer them. Refer to this idea web for a prosthetic hand invention as an example.
  • Guided Questions for Problem Solving (NASA SciFiles) - Use these questions to guide you through the problem-solving process.
  • Defining the Problem Worksheet (TeachEngineering.org) - Use this tool to justify the need for the project/invention, identify and describe your target audience, consider project requirements and constraints, and plan your approach to solving the problem.

Evaluating and selecting solutions:

  • Innovation/Invention Idea Evaluation (NASA SciFiles) - Use this tool to help you select the best possible solution to the problem.
  • Solution Feedback (NASA SciFiles) - Administer this survey to others to get feedback about your selected problem solution or invention idea.
  • User Interview Worksheet - Use this to conduct user interviews; the information you collect will help you to determine if your invention design will meet the needs of your target audience, and also may help you find hidden user needs.

Reverse-engineering and sketching:

  • Reverse-engineering Worksheet - Use this to guide you through the process of deconstructing and analyzing an existing invention related to your invention idea. If you are not able to reverse-engineer an actual device or product, refer to the patent application for a related invention that you found when you did your patent search; use the patent drawings and description to reverse-engineer the invention.
  • Inventor's Sketchpad (Lemelson Center) - Read about why inventors use sketching as an inventive thinking/problem-solving tool, and see examples of famous inventors' sketches. Then, try the online Inventor's Sketchpad tool, and sketch ideas for problem solutions in your Inventor's Log Book.

Researching invention materials and processes:

You may find that you need information about specific materials or technical/scientific processes as you are designing your invention. Use the resources and search tools below and on the Student Resources page to locate the information you need.


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Prototyping

What is a prototype? Why do I need one? How should I create one?

What Can Be A Prototype?

  • Verbal/written descriptions
  • Sketches, renderings or photos
  • Role play, scenarios, experiences
  • Storyboards – a series of images that communicates a sequence of actions involving the product
  • Videos – dynamic storyboards
  • Simulation
  • Interactive multimedia – combines the visual richness of video with the interactivity of simulation
  • Physical appearance models
  • Working prototypes

Use this design plan to get started. Then, use one or more of the methods below to prototype your invention.

1. Write a description/specification: Refer to the resources below, then use the notes recorded in your inventor's log book and to write a complete description of your inventive process, your invention, and how it works, in concrete terms; record this in your inventor's log.

2. Create drawings and models: Use the resources below and this design plan to create drawings or models to prototype your invention.

  • Drawings/diagrams:
  • Physical model:
    • Model-Making (NASA SciFiles) - Follow these suggestions to help you build a physical model from the design you have created.
  • 3-D computer model:
    • Google Sketchup - Software that you can use to create 3D models. Requires download (see your teacher/school technology liaison to download onto a school computer).
    • CAD software- If you have taken a class in Computer Assisted Drawing, use your prior knowledge/skills and available CAD software. Or, consult with a CAD teacher at your school to see if there are CAD students who might be able to take on your modeling project as an assignment.

3. Create a storyboard, video, or interactive multimedia to prototype your invention. See these BCPS-approved Web 2.0 tools; storyboarding resources; video production resources.

Digital Tools

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Manufacturing and Distribution
Marketing
Testing & Evaluation

Prototype Testing: You will need to conduct research to determine and document that your invention works as you have claimed. Use an experimental testing procedure and the scientific method to test your prototype.

  • Identify the important uses of the product.
  • Match characteristics of the product which make it appropriate for each use.
  • Devise criteria-referenced tests for each characteristic.
  • Design comparative tests to rank competitive products.
  • Conduct tests on products.
  • Identify and use technology tools for collecting and interpreting data from testing:
  • Make inferences and interpret data from your tests
  • Redesign or revise to improve your invention based on data analysis.
  • Record your testing process, data, analysis, and results in your inventor's log book.
  • Write scientific, objective reports to give the results of the tests done.
  • Create advertising based on the testing results.
Market Research & Analysis

Inventors use market research to determine if there is a need and a market for an innovation or invention. Market research considers trends, consumption, users, and types of products in the market of your invention. Market research may involve collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, from both secondary and primary sources.

  • Secondary sources may include published articles or reports from newspapers, Web pages, industry periodicals, or trade associations.
  • Primary source data may be obtained through interviews with knowledgeable people in the field related to your invention, and by conducting focus groups or surveys of potential users/consumers.
The steps included in designing a market survey may include identifying your target market; generating appropriate survey/focus questions; identifying and using an appropriate tool for collecting and analyzing data; drawing conclusions about the results; and revising the invention/innovation or marketing plan based on those conclusions.
Evaluating & Selecting Solutions
  • Innovation/Invention Idea Evaluation (NASA SciFiles) - Use this tool to help you select the best possible solution to the problem.
  • Solution Feedback (NASA SciFiles) - Administer this survey to others to get feedback about your selected problem solution or invention idea.
  • User Interview Worksheet - Use this to conduct user interviews; the information you collect will help you to determine if your invention design will meet the needs of your target audience, and also may help you find hidden user needs. Back to Top
Real World Application
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Glossaries