Design Problem : Energy and Power

Problems exist everywhere, and they vary in their degree of complexity and importance. Regardless of how problems are identified or from where they come, engineers use the design process to creatively and efficiently solve problems.


Solutions to problems are sometimes created by teams. These teams work together, constantly communicating with each other, to create the desired product. The team may receive a problem for which they are expected to create a solution with very few constraints. This allows the team to think creatively and use their ingenuity.


In this lesson students will work in teams to solve a design problem that focuses on energy and power. They will use their prior knowledge to create a solution to the problem. It is important for students to understand that an acceptable solution is one that fits the constraints and specifications of the design brief.

K1 – Know the purpose of each part of a design brief. 
K2 – Describe a step-by-step, iterative design process. 

S1 – Brainstorm and sketch possible solutions to an existing design problem. 
S2 – Create a decision making matrix for a design problem.
S3 – Select an approach that meets or satisfies the constraints provided in a design brief. 
S4 – Create a detailed pictorial sketch or use 3D modeling software to document a proposed design. 
S5 – Present a workable solution to a design problem. 



download a design brief template

PLTW Design Process

A design brief is a concise document (no more than one page) that identifies the client, clearly states his/her problem or need, details the degree to which the engineer will carry out the solution, and lists the rules and limits within which the engineer must perform.




A design process is a series of steps that engineers follow when they are trying to solve a problem and design a solution for something; it is a methodical approach to problem solving. There is no single design process that everyone uses, but most processes are similar.




A decision matrix is a design tool that is used to compare design solutions against one another using specific criteria. Design problem constraints are identified by the customer in the workplace (or by the teacher in the classroom). The decision matrix is set up so that the solution with the largest point total is considered the best solution to the design problem. A decision matrix is a part of the design process.





Pictorial sketches are an important part of design work. A popular means of illustrating a 3D object is with an isometric sketch.


Download instructions for creating an isometric sketch.


Download blank isometric graph paper.


Another popular method for sketching a 3D object in two dimensions is the 

orthographic view, shown below.


Autodesk® Inventor® 3D CAD software can also be used to draw (and even

3D print) a design.







Unit 1.4 Design Problem - download it here

click on the icon to enlarge the PLTW Design Process

download a decision matrix template

Common criteria used on a decision matrix include:

  • cost (material, development, manufacturing)
  • development time
  • manufacturing complexity
  • testability
  • robustness
  • aesthetics
  • size
  • safety

Vandegrift High School | 9500 McNeil Drive, Austin, TX | T: 512 570 2300 |