Research for
Technology and Engineering
Design, Invention, Innovation





















































































































NOTE: Refer to additional Student Resources, Glossaries, and Collaboration resources as needed throughout this step.

Using an Invention/Engineering Design Process

Use the resources listed below to analyze and evaluate different models outlining the steps in the invention/engineering design process. Select the process model which outlines the steps that you think will work best for you and your proposed invention; or, use a flowchart design tool to customize your own invention process model, including elements or steps from different existing models. You will use the flowchart you selected or created to guide you through the invention/engineering design process.

The Invention Process:

  • IDEO's Innovative Design Process - At IDEO, experts from a variety of fields come together to design new products, services, environments, and digital experiences.
    IDEO teams use a five-step process for any project they work on:
    • Research
    • Observe
    • Visualize
    • Evaluate and Refine
    • Implement
  • IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit - A design process specifically adapted for organizations working with communities in need all over the world.

The Engineering Design Process

Historical Perspective:

  • Lighting a Revolution - (Smithsonian) Uses the development of lighting inventions to illustrate a 5-step innovation process.
  • Overview of the Wright Brothers' Invention Process (NASA)
  • Invention Concepts (NASA SciFiles) - Video featuring the Wright Brothers - What important steps in the invention process do the Orville and Wilbur stress? Click the video to play.

invention concepts
YouTube video

Entrepreneurial perspective:

A flowchart is used to organize and visually depict the steps in a process and how they are related. Use one of these tools to customize a flowchart showing the steps you plan to follow in your own invention/engineering design process.
Use your invention/engineering design process flowchart
to guide you through the steps in the process.

Back to TopKeeping an Inventor's Log Book

A universal best practice among inventors and engineers is keeping a log book or notebook to record their ideas and document every step of their design process. Creating a record of your ideas and work will help you to both develop and protect your invention. Use the resources below to learn about keeping a log book and take notes to answer the questions.


  1. What are the purposes for keeping an inventor's log book?
  2. What should I include in my inventor's log book?
Apply your new knowledge to set up your own inventor's log book and use it to document your invention/engineering design process from this point forward.

Back to TopProblem-Solving and Research

You have already completed some of the initial steps in the invention/engineering design process: you have identified a need or a problem to be solved during Step 1: Encounter the Task, and brainstormed some possible solutions during Step 2: Explore an Issue or Problem. 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.


  • Graphic organizers - There are several ways to solve a problem, and this link gives 46 different types of graphic organizers that can be used to organize thoughts and processes.
  • 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 - Use these questions to guide you through the problem-solving process.
  • Defining the Problem Worksheet ( - 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.

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 in Step 3: Literature Review; 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 a variety resources and search tools to search for the information you need (below and on the Student Resources page).

Back to TopPrototyping

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

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 - 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.

Back to TopTesting & 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 and 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.
Back to TopPatent Application

During the literature review, you conducted a patent search to determine whether your proposed invention/innovation had already been patented. Since you may decide to apply for a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you need to know the criteria for patentability and the requirements for a patent application. Take notes to answer these questions:

  1. What are the different types of patents?
  2. Which type of patent would I need to protect my proposed technology invention?
  3. What can and cannot be patented?
  4. What are the requirements for obtaining a patent? 
  5. Is my technology invention patentable? How does my proposed invention meet the USPTO patentability requirements for being "novel, nonobvious, and useful?"

USPTO Resources:

Additional Patent Information Resources:

Back to TopReflect on your invention process to answer these questions in a journal entry:
  1. Define the problems/needs and how your invention(s) offers solutions.
  2. What makes your invention novel?
  3. How does your invention improve upon prior technology inventions?
  4. What are the potential economic, environmental and societal benefits of your invention?
  5. How do you envision your invention being commercialized or possessing the potential for adoption?