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  • Oct 13, 2019

10 Steps to Problem Solving for Engineers

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

With the official launch of the engineering book 10+1 Steps to Problem Solving: An Engineer's Guide it may be interesting to know that formalization of the concept began in episode 2 of the Engineering IRL Podcast back in July 2018.

As noted in the book remnants of the steps had existed throughout my career and in this episode I actually recorded the episode off the top of my head.

My goal was to help engineers build a practical approach to problem solving.

Have a listen.

Who can advise on the best approach to problem solving other than the professional problem solvers - Yes. I'm talking about being an Engineer.

There are 2 main trains of thought with Engineering work for non-engineers and that's trying to change the world with leading edge tech and innovations, or plain old boring math nerd type things.

Whilst, somewhat the case what this means is most content I read around Tech and Engineering are either super technical and (excruciatingly) detailed. OR really riff raff at the high level reveling at the possibilities of changing the world as we know it. And so what we end up with is a base (engineer only details) and the topping (media innovation coverage) but what about the meat? The contents?

There's a lot of beauty and interesting things there too. And what's the centrepiece? The common ground between all engineers? Problem solving.

The number one thing an Engineer does is problem solving. Now you may say, "hey, that's the same as my profession" - well this would be true for virtually every single profession on earth. This is not saying there isn't problem solving required in other professions. Some problems require very basic problem solving techniques such is used in every day life, but sometimes problems get more complicated, maybe they involve other parties, maybe its a specific quirk of the system in a specific scenario. One thing you learn in engineering is that not all problems are equal. These are

 The stages of problem solving like a pro:

Is the problem identified (no, really, are you actually asking the right question?)

Have you applied related troubleshooting step to above problem?

Have you applied basic troubleshooting steps (i.e. check if its plugged in, turned it on and off again, checked your basics)

Tried step 2 again? (Desperation seeps in, but check your bases)

Asked a colleague or someone else that may have dealt with your problem? (50/50 at this point)

Asked DR. Google (This is still ok)

Deployed RTFM protocol (Read the F***ing Manual - Engineers are notorious for not doing this)

Repeated tests, changing slight things, checking relation to time, or number of people, or location or environment (we are getting DEEP now)

Go to the bottom level, in networking this is packet sniffers to inspect packets, in systems this is taking systems apart and testing in isolation, in software this is checking if 1 equals 1, you are trying to prove basic human facts that everyone knows. If 1 is not equal to 1, you're in deep trouble.At this point you are at rebuild from scratch, re install, start again as your answer (extremely expensive, very rare)

And there you have it! Those are your levels of problem solving. As you go through each step, the more expensive the problem is. -- BUT WAIT. I picked something up along the way and this is where I typically thrive. Somewhere between problem solving step 8 and 10. 

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The secret step

My recommendation at this point is to try tests that are seemingly unrelated to anything to do with the problem at all.Pull a random cable, test with a random system off/on, try it at a specific time of the day, try it specifically after restarting or replugging something in. Now, not completely random but within some sort of scope. These test are the ones that when someone is having a problem when you suggest they say "that shouldn't fix the problem, that shouldn't be related" and they are absolutely correct.But here's the thing -- at this stage they have already tried everything that SHOULD fix the problem. Now it's time for the hail mary's, the long shots, the clutching at straws. This method works wonders for many reasons. 1. You really are trying to try "anything" at this point.

2. Most of the time we may think we have problem solving step number 1 covered, but we really don't.

3. Triggering correlations.

This is important.

Triggering correlations

In a later post I will cover correlation vs causation, but for now understand that sometimes all you want to do is throw in new inputs to the system or problem you are solving in order to get clues or re identify problems or give new ways to approach earlier problem solving steps. There you have it. Problem solve like a ninja. Approach that extremely experienced and smart person what their problem and as they describe all the things they've tried, throw in a random thing they haven't tried. And when they say, well that shouldn't fix it, you ask them, well if you've exhausted everything that should  have worked, this is the time to try things that shouldn't. Either they will think of more tests they haven't considered so as to avoid doing your preposterous idea OR they try it and get a new clue to their problem. Heck, at worst they confirm that they do know SOMETHING about the system.

Go out and problem solve ! As always, thanks for reading and good luck with all of your side hustles.

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Engineering Problem Solving ¶

Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well-informed just to be undecided about them. —Laurence J. Peter

Steps in solving ‘real world’ engineering problems ¶

The following are the steps as enumerated in your textbook:

Collaboratively define the problem

List possible solutions

Evaluate and rank the possible solutions

Develop a detailed plan for the most attractive solution(s)

Re-evaluate the plan to check desirability

Implement the plan

Check the results

A critical part of the analysis process is the ‘last’ step: checking and verifying the results.

Depending on the circumstances, errors in an analysis, procedure, or implementation can have significant, adverse consequences (NASA Mars orbiter crash, Bhopal chemical leak tragedy, Hubble telescope vision issue, Y2K fiasco, BP oil rig blowout, …).

In a practical sense, these checks must be part of a comprehensive risk management strategy.

My experience with problem solving in industry was pretty close to this, though encumbered by numerous business practices (e.g., ‘go/no-go’ tollgates, complex approval processes and procedures).

In addition, solving problems in the ‘real world’ requires a multidisciplinary effort, involving people with various expertise: engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, legal, marketing, product service and warranty, …

Exercise: Problem solving

Step 3 above refers to ranking of alternatives.

Think of an existing product of interest.

What do you think was ranked highest when the product was developed?

Consider what would have happened if a different ranking was used. What would have changed about the product?

Brainstorm ideas with the students around you.

Defining problems collaboratively ¶

Especially in light of global engineering , we need to consider different perspectives as we define our problem. Let’s break the procedure down into steps:

Identify each perspective that is involved in the decision you face. Remember that problems often mean different things in different perspectives. Relevant differences might include national expectations, organizational positions, disciplines, career trajectories, etc. Consider using the mnemonic device “Location, Knowledge, and Desire.”

Location : Who is defining the problem? Where are they located or how are they positioned? How do they get in their positions? Do you know anything about the history of their positions, and what led to the particular configuration of positions you have today on the job? Where are the key boundaries among different types of groups, and where are the alliances?

Knowledge : What forms of knowledge do the representatives of each perspective have? How do they understand the problem at hand? What are their assumptions? From what sources did they gain their knowledge? How did their knowledge evolve?

Desire : What do the proponents of each perspective want? What are their objectives? How do these desires develop? Where are they trying to go? Learn what you can about the history of the issue at hand. Who might have gained or lost ground in previous encounters? How does each perspective view itself at present in relation to those it envisions as relevant to its future?

As formal problem definitions emerge, ask “Whose definition is this?” Remember that “defining the problem clearly” may very well assert one perspective at the expense of others. Once we think about problem solving in relation to people, we can begin to see that the very act of drawing a boundary around a problem has non-technical, or political dimensions, depending on who controls the definition, because someone gains a little power and someone loses a little power.

Map what alternative problem definitions mean to different participants. More than likely you will best understand problem definitions that fit your perspective. But ask “Does it fit other perspectives as well?” Look at those who hold Perspective A. Does your definition fit their location, their knowledge, and their desires? Now turn to those who hold Perspective B. Does your definition fit their location, knowledge, and desires? Completing this step is difficult because it requires stepping outside of one’s own perspective and attempting to understand the problem in terms of different perspectives.

To the extent you encounter disagreement or conclude that the achievement of it is insufficient, begin asking yourself the following: How might I adapt my problem definition to take account of other perspectives out there? Is there some way of accommodating myself to other perspectives rather than just demanding that the others simply recognize the inherent value and rationality of mine? Is there room for compromise among contrasting perspectives?

How ‘good’ a solution do you need ¶

There is also an important aspect of real-world problem solving that is rarely articulated and that is the idea that the ‘quality’ of the analysis and the resources expended should be dependent on the context.

This is difficult to assess without some experience in the particular environment.

How ‘Good’ a Solution Do You Need?

Some rough examples:

10 second answer (answering a question at a meeting in front of your manager or vice president)

10 minute answer (answering a quick question from a colleague)

10 hour answer (answering a request from an important customer)

10 day answer (assembling information as part of a trouble-shooting team)

10 month answer (putting together a comprehensive portfolio of information as part of the design for a new $200,000,000 chemical plant)

Steps in solving well-defined engineering process problems, including textbook problems ¶

Essential steps:

Carefully read the problem statement (perhaps repeatedly) until you understand exactly the scenario and what is being asked.

Translate elements of the word problem to symbols. Also, look for key words that may convey additional information, e.g., ‘steady state’, ‘constant density’, ‘isothermal’. Make note of this additional information on your work page.

Draw a diagram. This can generally be a simple block diagram showing all the input, output, and connecting streams.

Write all known quantities (flow rates, densities, etc.) from step 2 in the appropriate locations on, or near, the diagram. If symbols are used to designate known quantities, include those symbols.

Identify and assign symbols to all unknown quantities and write them in the appropriate locations on, or near, the diagram.

Construct the relevant equation(s). These could be material balances, energy balances, rate equations, etc.

Write down all equations in their general forms. Don’t simplify anything yet.

Discard terms that are equal to zero (or are assumed negligible) for your specific problem and write the simplified equations.

Replace remaining terms with more convenient forms (because of the given information or selected symbols).

Construct equations to express other known relationships between variables, e.g., relationships between stoichiometric coefficients, the sum of species mass fractions must be one.

Whenever possible, solve the equations for the unknown(s) algebraically .

Convert the units of your variables as needed to have a consistent set across your equations.

Substitute these values into the equation(s) from step 7 to get numerical results.

Check your answer.

Does it make sense?

Are the units of the answer correct?

Is the answer consistent with other information you have?

Exercise: Checking results

How do you know your answer is right and that your analysis is correct?

This may be relatively easy for a homework problem, but what about your analysis for an ill-defined ‘real-world’ problem?

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An Inquiry-Based Introduction to Engineering pp 71–78 Cite as

Engineering Problem-Solving

  • Michelle Blum 2  
  • First Online: 21 September 2022

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You are becoming an engineer to become a problem solver. That is why employers will hire you. Since problem-solving is an essential portion of the engineering profession, it is necessary to learn approaches that will lead to an acceptable resolution. In real-life, the problems engineers solve can vary from simple single solution problems to complex opened ended ones. Whether simple or complex, problem-solving involves knowledge, experience, and creativity. In college, you will learn prescribed processes you can follow to improve your problem-solving abilities. Also, you will be required to solve an immense amount of practice and homework problems to give you experience in problem-solving. This chapter introduces problem analysis, organization, and presentation in the context of the problems you will solve throughout your undergraduate education.

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Mark Thomas Holtzapple, W. Dan Reece (2000), Foundations of Engineering, McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, ISBN:978-0-07-029706-7.

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End of Chapter Problems

1.1 ibl questions.

IBL1: Using standard problem-solving technique, answer the following questions

If you run in a straight line at a velocity of 10 mph in a direction of 35 degree North of East, draw the vector representation of your path (hint: use a compass legend to help create your coordinate system)

If you run in a straight line at a velocity of 10 mph in a direction of 35 degree North of East, explain how to calculate the velocity you ran in the north direction.

If you run in a straight line at a velocity of 10 mph in a direction of 35 degree North of East, explain how to calculate the velocity you ran in the east direction.

If you run in a straight line at a velocity of 10 mph in a direction of 35 degree North of East, explain how to calculate how far you ran in the north direction.

If you run in a straight line at a velocity of 10 mph in a direction of 35 degree North of East, explain how to calculate how far you ran in the east direction.

If you run in a straight line at a velocity of 10 mph in a direction of 35 degree North of East, how far north have you traveled in 5 min?

If you run in a straight line at a velocity of 10 mph in a direction of 35 degree North of East, how far east have you traveled in 5 min?

What type of problem did you solve?

IBL2: For the following scenarios, explain what type of problem it is that needs to be solved.

Scientists hypothesize that PFAS chemicals in lawn care products are leading to an increase in toxic algae blooms in lakes during summer weather.

An engineer notices that a manufacturing machine motor hums every time the fluorescent floor lights are turned on.

The U.N. warns that food production must be increased by 60% by 2050 to keep up with population growth demand.

Engineers are working to identify and create viable alternative energy sources to combat climate change.

1.2 Practice Problems

Make sure all problems are written up using appropriate problem-solving technique and presentation.

The principle of conservation of energy states that the sum of the kinetic energy and potential energy of the initial and final states of an object is the same. If an engineering student was riding in a 200 kg roller coaster car that started from rest at 10 m above the ground, what is the velocity of the car when it drops to 2.5 m above the ground?

Archimedes’ principle states that the total mass of a floating object equals the mass of the fluid displaced by the object. A 45 cm cylindrical buoy is floating vertically in the water. If the water density is 1.00 g/cm 3 and the buoy plastic has a density of 0.92 g/cm 3 determine the length of the buoy that is not submerged underwater.

A student throws their textbook off a bridge that is 30 ft high. How long would it take before the book hits the ground?

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Problem-solving for Engineers: Root Cause Analysis Fundamentals (Virtual Classroom)

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Even with the best quality systems and training, problems can happen. Root cause analysis (RCA) describes a wide range of approaches, tools, and techniques used to uncover causes of problems. For engineers, this could be applied to failure analysis in engineering and maintenance, quality control problems, safety performance, and computer systems or software analysis. The goal of RCA is to identify the origin of a problem using a systematic approach and determine:

  • What happened
  • Why it happened
  • How to reduce the likelihood that it happens again
  • How to launch a solution implementation plan

This three-day course provides a collaborative and dynamic learning environment that affords the participant the ability to perform RCA on real-world problems and overlay solutions to the problems. Each RCA tool is presented in an easy-to-follow structure: a general description of the tool, its purpose and typical applications, the procedure when using it, an example of its use, a checklist to help you make sure it is applied properly, and different forms and templates.

The examples used can be tailored to many different industries and markets, including manufacturing, robotics, bioengineering, energy, and pressure technology. The layout of this course has been designed to help speed participants’ learning through short videos depicting well-known scenarios for analysis in class. Course Materials (included in purchase of course):  Digital course notes via ASME’s Learning Platform 

By participating in this course, you will learn how to successfully:

  • Explain the concept of root cause analysis
  • Describe how to use tools for problem cause brainstorming
  • Ask the right questions; establish triggers that drive you to the RCA process
  • Develop strategies for problem cause data collection and analysis
  • Deploy tools for root cause identification and elimination
  • Perform a cost-benefit analysis
  • Practice ways of implementation solutions

Who should attend? This course is intended for engineers and technical professionals involved in flow of complex processes, materials and equipment, or those who serve in a project or product management function. This  ASME Virtual Classroom  course is held live with an instructor on our online learning platform. A Certificate of Completion will be issued to registrants who successfully attend and complete the course. Can't make one of the scheduled sessions? This course is also available On Demand.

  • Introduction to Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
  • The need and the practice
  • Defining a Problem
  • Strategies to Solve Problems
  • Understanding Causes and Its Levels
  • Finding Root Causes
  • Eliminating Root Causes
  • Proactive Problem Solving
  • Case Studies & Hands-on Activity
  • Defining Root Cause Analysis
  • Conducting Root Cause Analysis
  • Case Study & Group Activity
  • Problem Understanding
  • The Purpose and Applications of Flowcharts
  • Using Flowcharts
  • Using Critical Incidents
  • Using Performance Matrices
  • Problem Cause Brainstorming
  • The Purpose and Application of Brainstorming
  • Brainstorming Recording Templates
  • Problem Cause Data Collection
  • Taking Advantage of Samplings
  • Steps in Using Samplings
  • Taking Advantage of SurveysUsing Check Sheets
  • Problem Cause Data Collection Checklist
  • Understanding Problem Cause Data Analysis
  • The Purpose and Application of Histograms
  • Using and Interpreting Histograms
  • Using Relations Diagram
  • Case Study & Hands-on Activity
  • Fundamentals of Root Cause Identification
  • Using Cause-and-Effect Diagrams
  • Using the Five Whys Method
  • Using the Fault Tree Analysis Technique
  • An Overview of Root Cause Elimination
  • Using DeBono’s Six Hats
  • Overview of Solution Implementation
  • Organizing the Implementation
  • Developing an Implementation Plan
  • Using Tree Diagrams
  • Creating Change Acceptance
  • The Purpose and Application of Force-Field Analysis
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Exploring the engineering mindset: Problem solving strategies.

Students, engineers and other people often use problem-solving and problem-solving strategies almost every day in their life. They are introduced to problem-solving by demonstrating real-life applications and finding their solutions. These problem-solving strategies provide a rather systematic procedure to solve a problem that is efficient as well as gives a logical flow and makes them understand it well.

Exploring engineering mindset

Let’s look at some problem-solving strategies that make it easier for engineers to explore, understand and effortlessly solve the problem.

Defining the problem

For any given problem it must be very important to figure out and define the problem well. Collaboratively defining a problem will help engineering students understand the given problem well. Problem-defining or identifying is extremely difficult but also a very essential step.

It involves focusing on the real problem after diagnosing the situation. Identifying the problem makes it easier to list the possible solution, and also in turn saves our time, extra effort and money. Every engineering student should master defining a problem, and this needs a lot of patience and practice.

Furthermore, how a student frames his/her problem will assist their search for a possible solution.

Listing all the possible solutions –

Once, the problem is well understood and defined, the next step is to list all the possible solutions. By listing and brainstorming viable, possible and as many solutions as possible you can assist yourself effortlessly to find the ideal solution.

It is important to consider many suggestions provided while brainstorming for ideas as well as the information you’ve learned while analyzing the data. Some other things that help while listing all the possible solutions are receiving help from mentors, peers and teachers because they might have some more solutions that you might have not thought of.

Evaluating the listed solution

After creating a list of all the possible solutions, evaluate the list and understand which of that solutions will be the most feasible.

To make that part of the step easier you can, also speculate the positive and negative impact of each listed solution. Then once that part is done compare and analyze the report. You’ll be able to apprehend which of the following listed solutions is the most attainable one.

Make sure the selected solution does not have any loopholes. So that it can be implemented simply, efficiently and is also very practical.

Developing a plan for the most feasible solution

Once we have a practical and simple solution that will help you solve the problem, develop a plan for the same. It is significant to find a way to work around the solution, this makes our work a lot more uncomplicated.

The plan to solve the problem using the obtained solution should be smart, attainable, and relevant. The chosen strategy must be hassle-free to work with, no matter how new the problem and its concept are.

Re-checking the strategy chosen for solving the problem

It is very necessary to recheck the strategy we have chosen to solve our problem. It helps in more than one way like avoiding doing extra work, and ensuring we are using the correct strategy etc. Even if we are very confident about our strategy just confirming and rechecking proves beneficial.

As Camay said, ‘Check, double check, recheck’; so it is always better to do so. Students often ignore this step but sometimes this might disrupt the flow in later steps if the chosen strategy does not work out as we thought. Or maybe it turns out to be difficult to implement.

Once, we recheck we will be confident since that will reduce the chances of any further difficulty and then we can move on to the next step which is implementing the solution.

Implementing the solution

Now, after being done with all the above steps we finally get a good strategy for our problem. Hence, we can now implement the solution.

It is essential to be careful while executing the solution. Small things like paying attention to details, and the completion of all the work are also significant. Also while implementing the solution do keep a check on the action and analyze it well. How we carry out the solution will put an impact on the result we get.

After we complete this step, we can then move to the last step.

Checking the result

Once we implement the solution, we need to evaluate and check our results. Checking how effective the strategy was. Also, check if the current strategy solves the problem well or if the existing plan needs to be revised. Or maybe we need a new and better plan.

Since we have already rechecked our solution earlier there is a very chance to make any changes. But if you are not satisfied with the current strategy and its outcome you can still repeat from step two. So, that you can get the best possible strategy giving us the best solution.

Even though we do problem-solving almost every day it can sometimes it can be a little difficult. Easy problems can be solved easily without much use of the above-listed steps.

But for engineering students, mostly the problem they have to solve academically or in college life could turn out to be difficult. As well as something that needs good planning.  In such cases, the above given described steps could be very useful.

This will help the mind of the students to be at peace and with less stress. So try using it for one of the problems and see if it helps.

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For quality professionals, it is crucial to quickly and clearly identify the root cause when customers are experiencing problems with services or products. Minitab is the ideal partner for quality professionals who want to take on additional projects, or lead the development of a formal continuous improvement or operational excellence program.

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Watch the webinar to explore a step-by-step project roadmap to effectively investigate, improve, and maintain a process.

Process engineers need to understand their processes. Minitab is the expert in process improvement, with solutions designed to identify areas of improvement, measure processes outcomes, and monitor them. See an example of how Minitab can help with capability statistics that tell you how well your process is meeting the specifications that you have.

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Statistics plays a big role in all engineering professions and has become even more important for chemical engineers. Because of the proliferation of inexpensive instrumentation, an engineer working in a modern plant has access to a tremendous amount of data. As a result, chemical engineers are dealing with more, and more complex, data than ever before. Learning data analysis and data science skills will enable you to provide unique and in-depth insights from your data that can create significant value for your organization today.

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Applying the principles of biology, medicine, and engineering create life-saving solutions. That’s why Minitab works closely with biomedical engineers to ensure they are creating the safest and highest quality products. Learn how Boston Scientific leveraged Minitab solutions to improve manufacturing and as a result, drove significant savings.

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Minitab provides solutions to enable electrical engineers to design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment. With different analytical and problem-solving tools, Minitab is the partner of choice for electrical engineers. Learn more about how one electronics maker used one of Minitab’s tools to find better specifications for suppliers and realize significant cost savings.

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Imagine your new car breaks down after driving 60 miles. The engine light turns on and your vehicle must now be towed to be serviced. This is not only a warranty issue but also a field problem, due to lack of product reliability. Minitab partners with engineers to both optimize the design of products and ensure reliability to prevent this happening to you.

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Mechanical engineers work on a wide range of projects from creating detailed designs to conducting simulations and analyses. Mechanical engineers must not only collaborate with multidisciplinary teams to ensure projects are completed successfully and on schedule, but they also play a key role in troubleshooting and resolving technical issues, conducting research, and improving mechanical systems and devices. Minitab provides mechanical engineers the broadest solutions and resources needed to perform their duties better, faster and easier.

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When there is a problem, engineers are tasked to solve it. As if that isn’t challenging enough, working without proper tools and solutions makes problem-solving more difficult. To truly be successful, engineers need access to data, solutions to integrate and analyze it, project management skills, and templates to improve the process and ensure continuous improvement.

That’s why Minitab created an ecosystem that tackles problem-solving the way engineers do. Need structured problem-solving tools to brainstorm? Check! Want to standardize forms like FMEAs, PPAP, or House of Quality? We have them! Looking to pull data from different sources to analyze on one platform? You’ve come to the right place!

Whether you’re an engineer in quality or process improvement, or in product development, we understand the day-to-day challenges of properly designing and testing. That’s because we’ve been doing it for over 50 years. We provide solutions to collect, monitor, and measure data with an eye toward improvement. Plus, with our services, training, and education, we can help you do your job better and even expand your skillset. We can help solve your problems, so that you can solve them for your organization.

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7 Surprising Ways Engineering Has Solved Everyday Problems

Engineer with lots of tools taking notes

In a culture where hacking and repurposing are commonplace, engineering-minded designers transform everyday items into innovative solutions. By following design-cycle steps, they turn science fiction into reality, addressing pervasive everyday problems. This post explores real-world challenges, showcasing the transformative power of engineering solutions—from the coffee cup sleeve to the selfie stick and beyond. Consider inventive creations that improve accessibility and tackle health issues. Discover the limitless potential of engineering expertise to address contemporary challenges and improve lives.

Expertise to Create the Unexpected

We live in a hacking culture where we break down and repurpose everything from IKEA furniture to power tools, redesigning them to fill a need or solve a problem for which they were not originally intended. By applying some of the basic design-cycle steps of Ask, Research, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test and Improve, engineering-minded product designers are turning what might have once been considered science fictional solutions into reality.

By sharpening your engineering skill set , you can put yourself in a unique position to address some pervasive everyday problems. Which would you like to take on? For a little inspiration, take a look at some real-world everyday challenges, big and small, that have been alleviated by some rather innovative engineering solutions.

Squeezing Out the Last Drop of Liquid

We’ve all experienced the frustration of attempting to squeeze the last drop of ketchup or toothpaste from their containers. That could end very soon, all thanks to a unique slippery coating that keeps thick, gooey substances from sticking to solid surfaces.

Called LiquiGlide, this material was initially was created to line oil and gas pipelines to protect against buildup. 1 It worked so well that the team developing this technology at MIT decided to explore other commercial applications for it. They researched and tested different combinations of materials to create new variations of LiquiGlide, including food-grade and medical-grade versions. These can help reduce product waste and enable viscous liquid medications to efficiently empty from tubes to improve proper dosing.

Holding Hot Coffee Without Spilling It

The coffee cup sleeve: With such deceptively simple design and such obvious value, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t invented sooner than it was, back in 1991. The idea was born two years prior, when piping hot coffee in a paper to-go cup burned the hands (and subsequently spilled on the lap) of future Java Jacket founder Jay Sorensen.

Sorensen did considerable research on the potential market demand for such a product, the kinds of materials that could be used to cost-effectively create it and the most successful physical design. He produced and tested several iterations of the sleeve before landing on the prototype that is still used today. 2 Now, the nearly ubiquitous coffee cup sleeves are helping save the fingers (and laps) of countless hot-java-drinking commuters—not to mention engineers.

A Far-Reaching Solution for Getting the Group Shot

By freeing us from having to rely on a willing passerby to take a group photo in front of a tourist attraction or a silhouette shot against a stunning sunset, the selfie stick has certainly made an impact in today’s social-media-savvy world.

Wayne Fromm didn’t invent camera-on-a-stick technology, but in 2005 he did patent a version that could hold almost any camera and, eventually, nearly any smartphone. 3 That’s the version that began to resonate with consumers worldwide.

Since then, the original selfie stick concept has evolved into several iterations by Fromm and other manufacturers to answer the demand for more uses—including ones that extend telescopically at the push of a button so you can fit more people or more background into your shot, that allow you to snap a shot via Bluetooth without needing to set the camera timer, or that take blur-free photographs and video while skydiving or partaking in other action sports.

Walking Your Way to Health at Work

Dr. James Levine, a medical doctor who researches obesity, found that sitting for several hours at a time negatively impacts our health much more than initially thought, even for those who regularly go to the gym. He argued that our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, fueled by demands at work requiring us to be at our desks, has contributed to a culture of people with poor posture, lack of energy, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Levine came up with a rather unusual solution: He rigged a used treadmill under a raised bedside tray. 4 Perhaps this prototype he created in 1999 wasn’t the most attractive setup, but its goal was clear: to give people a way to be active while working and help reduce sitting-related health risks.

Levine worked with a manufacturer to produce the first official treadmill desk, released in 2007. Today, many companies promoting a healthier workplace offer employees the option to have such a desk instead of a traditional one.

Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

Sophia Velastegui, an influential engineer in the technology sector, applied several engineering design steps early in her career to conquer a common phobia: speaking in front of a crowd. 5

Velastegui did this by:

  • Identifying specific problems to address: her shyness and fear of public speaking
  • Looking into ways to work on them (such as volunteering to speak at company meetings)
  • Setting up a plan of action to overcome her shyness with strangers: research people to meet at conferences, contact them, choose discussion topics and maintain regular contact
  • Continuing to improve her speaking and networking skills through constant practice

Velastegui’s process improved her public speaking—and her confidence and management skills—so thoroughly that it has been invaluable to her rise through desirable positions at top companies. Not only that, she was named to Business Insider's list of most powerful female engineers in 2017.

Eating With Confidence, Without Spilling

Many of us take the simple act of feeding ourselves for granted. But for anyone with trembling hands, it can be a frustrating struggle to keep food on a fork or spoon long enough to reach their mouth without it winding up on the table or their clothing. Liftware Level™ utensils were created by inventors with loved ones experiencing such limitations.

Liftware uses sensor technology that makes real-time adjustments to accommodate any mild-to-severe shaking and trembling movements. 6 This improves accessibility and independence for those suffering from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

Liftware developers are taking their testing to a new level: They created an app that records motion data using an accelerometer sensor found in smartphones. They use this data when creating prototypes for versions of other common products that can be used by people with disabilities.

Diagnosing Deep Gastrointestinal Diseases

In 1981, inspired by a friend experiencing small intestine pain with no apparent source, rocket engineer Gavriel Iddan wondered if there was a way to create a “missile”—complete with a camera—that could be launched into the intestine to snap photographs in order to help physicians make accurate diagnoses.

Applying his knowledge of rocket engineering to a completely unrelated problem led to his invention of the ingestible camera. “PillCam” actually took 17 years to become reality, thanks to Iddan’s diligence and the development of micro cameras, transmitters and LED lights that could fit into a large pill-sized capsule. 7

Now the diagnostic standard, doctors can properly identify conditions that are deep in the digestive tract, areas previously unreachable by other nonsurgical methods.

Put Your Engineering Skills to Use

The world is full of countless challenges waiting for that one solution to be created or tweaked that can make life just a little easier, healthier or better. What problems are you planning on tackling with an engineering approach? What inefficiencies are you improving? And better yet, how many more opportunities might present themselves as you continue to hone your engineering expertise?

Using your engineering knowledge, there’s no limit to what you can do. Explore our online graduate engineering degree programs at Case Western Reserve University to get started improving the world around you today.

  • Retrieved on September 8, 2018, from liquiglide.com/
  • Retrieved on September 8, 2018, from smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-the-coffee-cup-sleeve-was-invented-119479/
  • Retrieved on September 8, 2018, from businessinsider.com/wayne-fromm-is-the-inventor-of-the-modern-selfie-stick-2015-8
  • Retrieved on September 8, 2018, from newyorker.com/magazine/2013/05/20/the-walking-alive
  • Retrieved on September 8, 2018, from businessinsider.com/how-this-engineer-hacked-her-career-and-became-a-gm-at-microsoft-2018-2
  • Retrieved on September 8, 2018, from launchforth.io/blog/post/invention-spotlight-liftware-level/2335/
  • Retrieved on September 8, 2018, from epo.org/learning-events/european-inventor/finalists/2011/iddan/impact.html

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Student Approaches to Engineering Problem-Solving - School of Engineering Education - Purdue University

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Student Approaches to Engineering Problem-Solving

Open-ended problem solving is a skill that is central to engineering practice. As a consequence, developing skills in solving such problems is imperative for engineering graduates. Open-ended problems are often ill-defined and can have more than one viable solution, which can create additional challenges for students and teachers. For example, solving open-ended problems can require consideration of a complex array of constraints, and the paths to a solution are many. This presentation presents results from a mixed methods project to understand open-ended problem solving of engineering undergraduate students. The overall goal of this project is to describe and understand the contributions of reflective judgment (i.e., students’ views of knowledge) and their cognitive ability (i.e., working memory capacity), when solving open-ended problems. We are particularly interested in specific problem-solving strategies undergraduate engineering students use when dealing with the ambiguity of open-ended problems.

Data were collected using a multi-stage process. Students were first given a set of quantitative instruments that measured their engineering content knowledge, epistemic views on knowledge, and working memory capacity. In the second stage students were asked to solve four problems that differed in their open-endedness and complexity; students were provided a text to use as a resource while solving the problems. Some of these students solved the problems using a think aloud protocol in which they were videotaped while speaking aloud about the strategies they were using. These students were subsequently interviewed to gain further information on their problem-solving processes. A number of insights regarding problem-solving by students have been obtained. For example, there was a significant negative correlation between time spent on the text and score on the problems. From the qualitative data three primary problem-solving strategies were identified: extreme fixation/distraction; fixated and uncertain; systematic and linear. Overall, the results indicate the importance of educating students in how to solve engineering problems that are complex and open-ended.

Dr. Elliot P. Douglas is Associate Chair, Associate Professor, and Distinguished Teaching Scholar in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida. His research activities are in the areas of active learning, problem solving, critical thinking, and use of qualitative methodologies in engineering education. Specifically, he has published and presented work on the use of guided inquiry as an active learning technique for engineering; how critical thinking is used in practice by students; and how different epistemological stances are enacted in engineering education research. He has been involved in faculty development activities since 1998, through the ExCEEd Teaching Workshops of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Essential Teaching Seminars of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the US National Science Foundation-sponsored SUCCEED Coalition. He has received several awards for his work, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Ralph Teetor Education Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers, and being named the University of Florida Teacher of the Year for 2003-04. He is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Educational Research Association and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Polymer Reviews .

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FREE K-12 standards-aligned STEM

curriculum for educators everywhere!

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  • TeachEngineering
  • Solving Everyday Problems Using the Engineering Design Cycle

Hands-on Activity Solving Everyday Problems Using the Engineering Design Cycle

Grade Level: 7 (6-8)

(two 60-minutes class periods)

Additional materials are required if the optional design/build activity extension is conducted.

Group Size: 4

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

NGSS Performance Expectations:

NGSS Three Dimensional Triangle

TE Newsletter

Engineering connection, learning objectives, materials list, worksheets and attachments, introduction/motivation, vocabulary/definitions, investigating questions, activity extensions, user comments & tips.

Engineers help shape a safer future

This activity introduces students to the steps of the engineering design process. Engineers use the engineering design process when brainstorming solutions to real-life problems; they develop these solutions by testing and redesigning prototypes that work within given constraints. For example, biomedical engineers who design new pacemakers are challenged to create devices that help to control the heart while being small enough to enable patients to move around in their daily lives.

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Explain the stages/steps of the engineering design process .
  • Identify the engineering design process steps in a case study of a design/build example solution.
  • Determine whether a design solution meets the project criteria and constraints.
  • Think of daily life situations/problems that could be improved.
  • Apply the engineering design process steps to develop their own innovations to real-life problems.
  • Apply the engineering design cycle steps to future engineering assignments.

Educational Standards Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards. All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) , a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org). In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g. , by state; within source by type; e.g. , science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc .

Ngss: next generation science standards - science, international technology and engineering educators association - technology.

View aligned curriculum

Do you agree with this alignment? Thanks for your feedback!

State Standards

Massachusetts - science.

Each group needs:

  • Marisol Case Study , one per student
  • Group Leader Discussion Sheet , one per group

To share with the entire class:

  • computer/projector setup to show the class the Introduction to the Engineering Design Cycle Presentation , a Microsoft® PowerPoint® file
  • paper and pencils
  • (optional) an assortment of scrap materials such as fabric, super glue, wood, paper, plastic, etc., provided by the teacher and/or contributed by students, to conduct the hands-on design/build extension activity

(Have the 19-slide Introduction to the Engineering Design Cycle Presentation , a PowerPoint® file, ready to show the class.)

Have you ever experienced a problem and wanted a solution to it? Maybe it was a broken backpack strap, a bookshelf that just kept falling over, or stuff spilling out of your closet? (Let students share some simple problems with the class). With a little bit of creativity and a good understanding of the engineering design process, you can find the solutions to many of these problems yourself!

But what is the engineering design process? (Listen to some student ideas shared with the class.) The engineering design process, or cycle, is a series of steps used by engineers to guide them as they solve problems.

(Show students the slide presentation. Refer to the notes under each slide for a suggested script and comments. The slides introduce the main steps of the engineering design process, and walk through a classroom problem—a teacher’s disorganized desk that is preventing timely return of graded papers—and how students devise a solution. It also describes the work of famous people—Katherine Johnson, Lee Anne Walters, Marc Edwards, James E. West and Jorge Odón—to illustrate successful examples of using the steps of the engineering design process.)

Now that we’ve explore the engineering design process, let’s see if we can solve a real-world problem. Marisol is a high-school student who is very excited to have their own locker. They have lots of books, assignments, papers and other items that they keep in their locker. However, Marisol is not very organized. Sometimes they are late to class because they need extra time to find things that were stuffed into their locker. What is Marisol’s problem? (Answer: Their locker is disorganized.) In your groups, you’ll read through Marisol’s situation and see how they use the engineering design process to solve it. Let’s get started!

This activity is intended as an introduction to the engineering design cycle. It is meant to be relatable to students and serve as a jumping off point for future engineering design work.

A circular diagram shows seven steps: 1) ask: identify the need & constraints, 2) research the problem, 3) imagine: develop possible solutions, 4) plan: select a promising solution, 5) create: build a prototype, 6) test and evaluate prototype, 7) improve: redesign as needed, step 1.

Engineers follow the steps of the engineering design process to guide them as they solve problems. The steps shown in Figure 1 are:

Ask: identify the need & constraints

  • Identify and define the problem. Who does the problem affect? What needs to be accomplished? What is the overall goal of the project?
  • Identify the criteria and constraints. The criteria are the requirements the solution must meet, such as designing a bag to hold at least 10 lbs. Constraints are the limitations and restrictions on a solution, such as a maximum budget or specific dimensions.

Research the problem

  • Learn everything you can about the problem. Talk to experts and/or research what products or solutions already exist.
  • If working for a client, such as designing new filters for a drinking water treatment plant, talk with the client to determine the needs and wants.

Imagine: develop possible solutions

  • Brainstorm ideas and come up with as many solutions as possible. Wild and crazy ideas are welcome! Encourage teamwork and building on ideas.

Plan: select a promising solution

  • Consider the pros and cons of all possible solutions, keeping in mind the criteria and constraints.
  • Choose one solution and make a plan to move forward with it.

Create: build a prototype

  • Create your chosen solution! Push for creativity, imagination and excellence in the design.

Test and evaluate prototype

  • Test out the solution to see how well it works. Does it meet all the criteria and solve the need? Does it stay within the constraints? Talk about what worked during testing and what didn’t work. Communicate the results and get feedback. What could be improved?

Improve: redesign as needed

  • Optimize the solution. Redesign parts that didn’t work, and test again.
  • Iterate! Engineers improve their ideas and designs many times as they work towards a solution.

Some depictions of the engineering design process delineate a separate step—communication. In the Figure 1 graphic, communication is considered to be incorporated throughout the process. For this activity, we call out a final step— communicate the solution —as a concluding stage to explain to others how the solution was designed, why it is useful, and how they might benefit from it. See the diagram on slide 3.

For another introductory overview of engineering and design, see the What Is Engineering? What Is Design? lesson and/or show students the What Is Engineering? video. 

Before the Activity

  • Make copies of the five-page Marisol Case Study , one per student, and the Group Leader Discussion Sheet , one per group.
  • Be ready to show the class the Introduction to the Engineering Design Cycle Presentation , a PowerPoint® file.

With the Students

  • As a pre-activity assessment, spend a few minutes asking students the questions provided in the Assessment section.
  • Present the Introduction/Motivation content to the class, which includes using the slide presentation to introduce students to the engineering design cycle. Throughout, ask for their feedback, for example, any criteria or constraints that they would add, other design ideas or modifications, and so forth.
  • Divide the class into groups of four. Ask each team to elect a group leader. Hand out the case study packets to each student. Provide each group leader with a discussion sheet.
  • In their groups, have students work through the case study together.
  • Alert students to the case study layout with its clearly labeled “stop” points, and direct them to just read section by section, not reading beyond those points.
  • Suggest that students either taking turns reading each section aloud or read each section silently.
  • Once all students in a group have read a section, the group leader refers to the discussion sheet and asks its questions of the group, facilitating a discussion that involves every student.
  • Encourage students to annotate the case study as they like; for example, they might note in the margins Marisol’s stage in the design process at various points.
  • As students work in their groups, walk around the classroom and encourage group discussion. Ensure that each group member contributes to the discussion and that group members are focused on the same section (no reading ahead).
  • After all teams have finished the case study and its discussion questions, facilitate a class discussion about how Marisol used the engineering design cycle. This might include referring back to questions 4 and 5 in “Stop 5” to discuss remaining questions about the case study and relate the case study example back to the community problems students suggested in the pre-activity assessment.
  • Administer the post-activity assessment.

brainstorming: A team creativity activity with the purpose to generate a large number of potential solutions to a design challenge.

constraint: A limitation or restriction. For engineers, design constraints are the requirements and limitations that the final design solutions must meet. Constraints are part of identifying and defining a problem, the first stage of the engineering design cycle.

criteria: For engineers, the specifications and requirements design solutions must meet. Criteria are part of identifying and defining a problem, the first stage of the engineering design cycle.

develop : In the engineering design cycle, to create different solutions to an engineering problem.

engineering: Creating new things for the benefit of humanity and our world. Designing and building products, structures, machines and systems that solve problems. The “E” in STEM.

engineering design process: A series of steps used by engineering teams to guide them as they develop new solutions, products or systems. The process is cyclical and iterative. Also called the engineering design cycle.

evaluate: To assess something (such as a design solution) and form an idea about its merit or value (such as whether it meets project criteria and constraints).

optimize: To make the solution better after testing. Part of the engineering design cycle.

Pre-Activity Assessment

Intro Discussion: To gauge how much students already know about the activity topic and start students thinking about potential design problems in their everyday lives, facilitate a brief class discussion by asking students the following questions:

  • What do engineers do? (Example possible answers: Engineers design things that help people, they design/build/create new things, they work on computers, they solve problems, they create things that have never existed before, etc.)
  • What are some problems in your home, school or community that could be solved through engineering? (Example possible answers: It is too dark in a community field/park at night, it is hard to carry shopping bags in grocery store carts, the dishwasher does not clean the dishes well, we spend too much time trying to find shoes—or other items—in the house/garage/classroom, etc.)
  • How do engineers solve problems? (Example possible answers: They build new things, design new things, etc. If not mentioned, introduce students to the idea of the engineering design cycle. Liken this to how research scientists are guided by the steps of the scientific method.)

Activity Embedded Assessment

Small Group Discussions: As students work, observe their group discussions. Make sure the group leaders go through all the questions for each section, and that each group member contributes to the discussions.

Post-Activity Assessment

Marisol’s Design Process: Provide students with writing paper and have them write “Marisol’s Design Process” at the top. Direct them to clearly write out the steps that Marisol went through as they designed and completed their locker organizer design and label them according to where they fit in the engineering design cycle. For example, “Marisol had to jump back to avoid objects falling out of their locker” and they stated a desire to “wanted to find a way to organize their locker” both illustrate the “identifying the problem” step.

  • Which part of the engineering design cycle is Marisol working on as they design an organizer?
  • Why is it important to identify the criteria and constraints of a project before building and testing a prototype? (Example possible answers: So that the prototype will be the right size, so that you do not go over budget, so that it will solve the problem, etc.)
  • Why do engineers improve and optimize their designs? (Example possible answers: To make it work better, to fix unexpected problems that come up during testing, etc.)

To make this a more hands-on activity, have students design and build their own locker organizers (or other solutions to real-life problems they identified) in tandem with the above-described activity, incorporating the following changes/additions to the process:

  • Before the activity: Inform students that they will be undertaking an engineering design challenge. Without handing out the case study packet, introduce students to Marisol’s problem: a disorganized locker. Ask students to bring materials from home that they think could help solve this problem. Then, gather assorted materials (wood and fabric scraps, craft materials, tape, glue, etc.) to provide for this challenge, giving each material a cost (for example, wood pieces cost 50¢, fabric costs 25¢, etc.) and write these on the board or on paper to hand out to the class. 
  • Present the Introduction/Motivation content and slides to introduce students to the engineering design process (as described above). Then have students go through the steps of the engineering design process to create a locker organizer for Marisol. Inform them Marisol has only $3 to spend on an organizer, so they must work within this budget constraint. As a size constraint, tell students the locker is 32 inches tall, 12 inches wide and 9.5 inches deep. (Alternatively, have students measure their own lockers and determine the size themselves.) 
  • As students work, ask them some reflection questions such as, “Which step of the engineering design process are you working on?” and “Why have you chosen that solution?”
  • Let groups present their organizers to the class and explain the logic behind their designs.
  • Next, distribute the case study packet and discussion sheets to the student groups. As the teams read through the packet, encourage them to discuss the differences between their design solutions and Marisol’s. Mention that in engineering design there is no one right answer; rather, many possible solutions may exist. Multiple designs may be successful in imagining and fabricating a solution that meets the project criteria and constraints.

Engineering Design Process . 2014. TeachEngineering, Web. Accessed June 20, 2017. https://www.teachengineering.org/k12engineering/designprocess

Contributors

Supporting program, acknowledgements.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation CAREER award grant no. DRL 1552567 (Amy Wilson-Lopez) titled, Examining Factors that Foster Low-Income Latino Middle School Students' Engineering Design Thinking in Literacy-Infused Technology and Engineering Classrooms. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Last modified: October 26, 2023

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We’re forward-thinking technology people with heart. We make our own rules, drive our own opportunities, and try to approach every challenge with fresh eyes. Of course, we can’t do it alone. We know when to ask for help, collaborate with others, and partner with smart people. We embrace diversity and openness because it’s in our DNA. We push limits and reward great ideas. What is your great idea?

"At NetApp, we fully embrace and advance a diverse, inclusive global workforce with a culture of belonging that leverages the backgrounds and perspectives of all employees, customers, partners, and communities to foster a higher performing organization." -George Kurian, CEO

As a Software QA Engineer, you will work as part of a team of skilled engineers accountable for participating in the development, testing, debugging, and maintenance of an enterprise data protection suite of products. As part of the Research and Development function, quality software engineers focus on automation development, in-depth testing of existing as well as new products.  A major part of your responsibility will be to apply current skills and use up-to-date technologies to complete projects as part of the QA cycle including: - Automation Development, Testing and Debugging of Product failures of product in on-Prem and Cloud arena, maintaining testing artifacts in test repository and defect life cycle.

  • •    Should have at least 1-3 years of experience in Automation development. •    Strong experience in designing API or command line or GUI automation frameworks from scratch. •    Proficiency in scripting language such as Python or C# or JAVA. •    Strong understanding of testing concepts, Agile methodologies, and defect life cycle. •    Hands on experience in automation tools such as Selenium. •    Self-motivated and self-directed with the ability to prioritize and execute tasks within tight deadlines. •    Good to have Prior working experience in any one of the public cloud platform experiences.  •    Prior knowledge on VMWare, SAN / NAS Storage or enterprise data protections are preferable.  •    Hands-on experience with enterprise databases such as MS SQL Server/ Oracle/SAP HANA databases.  •    Basic knowledge in product security, threat modelling, SDL processes, and vulnerability assessments would be beneficial.
  • A Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering or Computer Science, a master’s degree, or a PhD; or equivalent experience with 1 to 3 years of experience.
  • Demonstrated ability to have completed multiple, moderately complex projects.

Did you know… Statistics show women apply to jobs only when they’re 100% qualified. But no one is 100% qualified. We encourage you to shift the trend and apply anyway! We look forward to hearing from you.

Why NetApp?

In a world full of generalists, NetApp is a specialist. No one knows how to elevate the world’s biggest clouds like NetApp. We are data-driven and empowered to innovate. Trust, integrity, and teamwork all combine to make a difference for our customers, partners, and communities.  We expect a healthy work-life balance. Our volunteer time off program is best in class, offering employees 40 hours of paid time off per year to volunteer with their favorite organizations.  We provide comprehensive medical, dental, wellness, and vision plans for you and your family.  We offer educational assistance, legal services, and access to discounts. We also offer financial savings programs to help you plan for your future.   If you run toward knowledge and problem-solving, join us. 

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engineer for problem solving

Ossining High School robotics club builds future engineers

O n a recent Wednesday afternoon, members of Ossining High School’s Engineering Club were making final tweaks on the team robot in preparation for the Tech Valley Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in Albany.

Douglas Albrecht, the club’s coordinator, said the club teaches students to design, build and program a robot from scratch for a new task each year; and that they compete against teams from around the world in competitions across the state. 

In the weeks leading to competition season, the students work on the robot after school with the upperclassmen teaching the underclassmen skills in electrical, mechanical and programming, said Katelyn Battacharia, a senior and club vice president.

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“This year we're competing in three different competitions, where we form alliances with other robots from other schools and we're able to learn collaboration, we're able to learn problem-solving skills on the spot and we're also able to talk to judges at these competitions, teaching yourself about public speaking skills as well,” Battacharia said.

Battacharia plans to major in engineering in college.

“The club has really influenced some of my best friends," she said. "It's showed me that I can do things that other people are capable of that I never thought I would be able to do, and it also has influenced my career aspirations as well."

Albrecht reported back after the competition in Albany saying it went well and that after working out the problems that forced a redesign of the robot, they were quarterfinalists and won the Sustainability Award for their outreach work in the community. 

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Ossining High School robotics club builds future engineers

Senior Cole Bodoff, left, junior Massimo Giambona, and senior Quinn Matthews make final tweaks March 20, 2024, on the Ossining Engineering Club's robot as they prepare for an upcoming competition at Ossining High School.

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Meet Devin AI, the world’s ‘first fully autonomous’ AI software engineer

Devin comes with some advanced capabilities in software development, including coding, debugging, problem-solving, etc. here's all you need to know about it.

engineer for problem solving

US-based applied AI lab, Cognition, has introduced what it claims is the world’s first AI software engineer. The makers say that the AI agent, named Devin, has passed practical engineering interviews held by leading AI companies. Cognition claims it has also completed real jobs posted on Upwork, an US-based freelancing platform. “Devin is a tireless, skilled teammate, equally ready to build alongside you or independently complete tasks for you to review. With Devin, engineers can focus on more interesting problems, and engineering teams can strive for more ambitious goals,” read the company’s official blog post.

What can Devin do?

The AI agent comes with some advanced capabilities in software development, including coding, debugging, problem-solving, etc. Devin uses machine learning algorithms to constantly learn and improve its performance and adapt according to new challenges. In simple words, Devin can build and deploy apps end-to-end and can also train and fine-tune its own AI models.

engineer for problem solving

Devin can plan and execute complex engineering tasks that would require thousands of decisions. This is possible owing to Cognition’s advances in long-term reasoning and planning. According to the company, Devin can recall relevant context at each step, self-learn over time, and even fix mistakes.

Besides, the makers have also endowed the AI software engineer with the ability to proactively collaborate with the user. It reports progress in real-time, is capable of accepting feedback, and works along with the user through design choices as needed.

What about Devin’s performance?

On the SWE-Bench benchmark (a benchmark for evaluating large language models on real-world software issues found on GitHub), Devin correctly resolved 13.86 per cent of the issues without any assistance compared with the 1.96 per cent unassisted and 4.80 per cent assisted of the previous state-of-the-art model.

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In terms of performance, Devin AI is capable of augmenting efficiency and speed within software development processes by automating repetitive tasks, instantly generating code, expediting project timelines, and cutting down development expenses substantially.

One of the most notable facets of Devin AI is that it is immune to human errors or inconsistencies. The AI agent is capable of guaranteeing precision and uniformity in coding practices which can lead to the development of superior-quality software products.

It needs to be noted that the company has not disclosed anything about the AI model that is powering Devin AI, nor has it revealed detailed technical specifications. Some of the other popular AI-powered tools that help with coding are OpenAI Codex, GitHub Copilot, Polycoder, CodeT5, Tabnine, etc.

What challenges, opportunities does it bring?

While the company has elaborated on the capabilities of Devin, some experts feel that the AI software engineer may struggle with complex requirements or instances that rely on human intuition and creativity. Besides, AI tools such as Devin seem to fan concerns about job losses. However, others believe that Devin can be an ally for thousands of software engineers, offering new avenues of collaboration between human ingenuity and AI.

Cognition, the firm behind Devin, is headed by Scott Wu. Cognition calls itself an applied AI lab that is focussed on reasoning. The company claims that it is building AI teammates with capabilities that surpass existing AI tools. “Building Devin is just the first step—our hardest challenges still lie ahead,” read the website. The agent will be soon available to be hired for engineering works,but for now, companies need to join a waitlist.

Bijin Jose - Assistant Editor - The Indian Express

Bijin Jose, an Assistant Editor at Indian Express Online in New Delhi, is a technology journalist with a portfolio spanning various prestigious publications. Starting as a citizen journalist with The Times of India in 2013, he transitioned through roles at India Today Digital and The Economic Times, before finding his niche at The Indian Express. With a BA in English from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara, and an MA in English Literature, Bijin's expertise extends from crime reporting to cultural features. With a keen interest in closely covering developments in artificial intelligence, Bijin provides nuanced perspectives on its implications for society and beyond. ... Read More

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Aurora Beacon-News | Problem-solving, critical thinking on display…

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engineer for problem solving

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Aurora Beacon-News

Aurora beacon-news | problem-solving, critical thinking on display at robotics event at aurora municipal airport.

Students from 9 to 16 years old participated in the Elite Robotics Camp in Aurora which included a competition Friday at the Aurora Municipal Airport in Sugar Grove. (David Sharos / For The Beacon-News)

Robots and the kids that built and operated them took center stage all day Friday at the Aurora Municipal Airport in Sugar Grove as 17 students 9 to 16 years old squared off in a competition during the first-ever Elite Robotics Camp, hosted by the U.S. Engineering League and the Wong Center for Education.

The Friday showcase was the culmination of a week-long camp program that included four days of workshops held at the Hampton Inn in Aurora.

A press release issued by the robotics camp said the 17 students involved spent time with a variety of national champions from multiple countries under Anthony Hsu of OFDL Robotics Lab Taiwan, “one of the world’s most accomplished coaches.”

Susan Mackafey, publicist for the Robotics group, said the event in Aurora came about as a result of the competitions that the Wong group hosts worldwide. William Wong, the founder of the Wong Center for Education, is the national organizer for the World Robot Olympiad, according to a press release.

“There were some students from Ukraine and Kazakhstan wondering if there would be any other kind of competitions as they wanted to hone their skills with one of the experts,” she said. “Will Wong ran with it, and has arranged the camp and the competition going on this Friday.”

Two of the camp members from Ukraine – Margo Proutorbva and Sofia Sova – were sponsored by the Wong Center for Education.

“It’s been an emotional trip for them,” Mackafey said, given the war going on in their homeland. “A lot of the kids are looking to train and do this as their careers and they love to compete. There are various levels of this competition that take place on a global scale.”

Local students were on hand as well, some of whom are being sponsored by the Wong Foundation, sources said.

Wong, of Naperville, was supervising Friday at the airport facility and said he started a robotics program with kids back in 2008.

“STEM has become a lot of the focus,” Wong said. “Even before I started, STEM was a big word. Engineering coding has always been there. It’s just how can we have kids do more of it. What’s happened is there are education companies like LEGO and other companies that have built robots that allow us to teach kids robotics in an easy fashion and we can create real world challenges off those robots so they literally are engineering, building and creating, designing and working with teams to have robots do tasks.”

Other than the collaborative learning, Wong said the biggest takeaways of the program “are problem-solving, figuring out how to make things work, a lot of trial-and-error, analysis and critical thinking.”

“There is teamwork, but the biggest is perseverance and working through the problems,” he said. “If the robot doesn’t work the first time or the second time or the 100th time, they are truly going through the engineering process – building, design and the whole cycle.”

Sofia Sova, left, and Margo Protorbva came from Ukraine to participate in a robotics camp in Aurora that culminated with a competition Friday at the Aurora Municipal Airport in Sugar Grove. (David Sharos / For The Beacon-News)

Margo Proutorbva, 14, spoke about robotics and said through an interpreter she got interested in them two years ago.

“I’ve learned to assemble them,” she said. “The most difficult part of this has been when you assemble a robot with someone else – it’s way easier when you do it on your own. My robot can grab different objects, follow lines and turn in different ways.”

David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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COMMENTS

  1. 10 Steps to Problem Solving for Engineers

    Now it's time for the hail mary's, the long shots, the clutching at straws. This method works wonders for many reasons. 1. You really are trying to try "anything" at this point. 2. Most of the time we may think we have problem solving step number 1 covered, but we really don't. 3. Triggering correlations. This is important.

  2. 1.3: What is Problem Solving?

    If you are not sure how to fix the problem, it is okay to ask for help. Problem solving is a process and a skill that is learned with practice. It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and that no one knows everything. Life is about learning. It is okay to ask for help when you don't have the answer.

  3. Problem Solving

    Scientists, engineers, and ordinary people use problem solving each day to work out solutions to various problems. Using a systematic and iterative procedure to solve a problem is efficient and provides a logical flow of knowledge and progress. In this unit, we use what is called "The Technological Method of Problem Solving."

  4. Chapter 6

    Summary. Engineers as Problem Solvers. Evers, Rush, and Berdrow (1998) identi-fy numerous disconnects between skills acquired in college and those required of the workplace. Among the most important skills that ABET Inc., the primary engineering accreditation institution in the United States, has identified for the preparation of engineers are ...

  5. Engineering Problem Solving

    The engineering problem-solving approach in the aforementioned example of using LED lights to improve energy efficiency, began by identifying that it is critical that the consumption of fossil ...

  6. Engineering Problem Solving

    Steps in solving 'real world' engineering problems ¶. The following are the steps as enumerated in your textbook: Collaboratively define the problem. List possible solutions. Evaluate and rank the possible solutions. Develop a detailed plan for the most attractive solution (s) Re-evaluate the plan to check desirability. Implement the plan.

  7. PDF Introduction to Engineering Design and Problem Solving

    Engineering design is the creative process of identifying needs and then devising a solution to fill those needs. This solution may be a product, a technique, a structure, a project, a method, or many other things depending on the problem. The general procedure for completing a good engineering design can be called the Engineering Method of ...

  8. Engineering Problem-Solving

    Being a good problem solver is a defining characteristic of an engineer [2, 3].Problem-solving involves a combination of knowledge and skill.The knowledge needed includes understanding principles of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and other subjects like mechanics, thermodynamics, and fluids. The skill involved includes using proper judgment, logic, experience, and common sense to ...

  9. Engineering Problem Solving

    Engineering problems usually have more than one solution. It is the aim of the engineer to obtain the best solution possible with the resources available. Engineers are professionally responsible for the safety and performance of their designs. The objective is to solve a given problem with the simplest, safest, most efficient design possible ...

  10. Problem Solving Skills for Engineers

    HERE'S A PROBLEM SOLVING FRAMEWORK FOR ENGINEERS - In this video of The Engineering Career Coach Podcast, we talk to Andrew Sario, an intelligent transport s...

  11. PDF Engineering Guidebook

    At its core, engineering is the quantitative art of problem solving. Engineering is quantitative through the application of engineering analysis, or the specific way engineers evaluate a complex problem. Engineering analysis involves taking any problem, no matter how complex, breaking it down into its fundamental, measurable, and solvable ...

  12. Problem-solving for Engineers: Root Cause Analysis Fundamentals ...

    For engineers, this could be applied to failure analysis in engineering and maintenance, quality control problems, safety performance, and computer systems or software analysis. The goal of RCA is to identify the origin of a problem using a systematic approach and determine:

  13. Tips for Solving Engineering Problems Effectively

    Problem-solving skills help you to resolve obstacles in a situation. As stated earlier, problem solving is a skill that an engineer must have and fortunately it's a skill that can be learned. This skill gives engineers a mechanism for identifying things, figuring out why they are broken and determining a course of action to fix them.

  14. TECC 244: Practical Problem-Solving Skills for Engineers

    The book, "10+1 Steps to Problem Solving: An Engineer's Guide," is born from Andrew's practical experiences. If you encounter similar problems repetitively, you begin to learn how to solve them quicker and easier. Many problems are solved by taking the same steps as used with other problems. Use this book in conjunction with the problem ...

  15. Intro To Engineering Problem Solving: The SOLVEM Method

    This video contains a brief introduction to the SOLVEM method for Engineering Problem Solving.00:00 Introduction00:35 Types of Problems01:35 SOLVEM Method03:...

  16. Engineering Design Process

    The engineering design process emphasizes open-ended problem solving and encourages students to learn from failure. This process nurtures students' abilities to create innovative solutions to challenges in any subject! The engineering design process is a series of steps that guides engineering teams as we solve problems.

  17. Exploring the engineering mindset: Problem solving strategies

    July 24, 2023. by Sakshi Purohit. BTech General. Students, engineers and other people often use problem-solving and problem-solving strategies almost every day in their life. They are introduced to problem-solving by demonstrating real-life applications and finding their solutions. These problem-solving strategies provide a rather systematic ...

  18. PDF Engineering Approach to Problem Solving

    Applies to Conservation of Mass (COM), the First Law of Thermodynamics (1st Law), and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (2nd Law) Similar to a Free Body Diagram used in Statics and Dynamics. Identify your system or control volume using a dashed line. Identify relevant transfers of mass and energy (as heat and/or work) across the boundary.

  19. Boost Civil Engineering Problem-Solving with Teamwork

    As a civil engineer, enhancing your problem-solving skills is crucial to your success and professional growth. Problem-solving in civil engineering involves a blend of creativity, technical ...

  20. Structured Problem-Solving and Analytical Tools for Engineers

    Solutions Built for Engineers. Minitab provides a multitude of solutions for engineers to aid in problem solving and analytics. Attack problems with brainstorming tools, plan projects and process improvements through visual tools, and then collect data and analyze it, all within the Minitab ecosystem. Our solutions can help you find the answers ...

  21. 7 Ways Engineering Solves Everyday Problems

    Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking. Sophia Velastegui, an influential engineer in the technology sector, applied several engineering design steps early in her career to conquer a common phobia: speaking in front of a crowd. 5. Velastegui did this by: Identifying specific problems to address: her shyness and fear of public speaking.

  22. Student Approaches to Engineering Problem-Solving

    Open-ended problem solving is a skill that is central to engineering practice. As a consequence, developing skills in solving such problems is imperative for engineering graduates. Open-ended problems are often ill-defined and can have more than one viable solution, which can create additional challenges for students and teachers.

  23. Solving Everyday Problems Using the Engineering Design Cycle

    Designing and building products, structures, machines and systems that solve problems. The "E" in STEM. engineering design process: A series of steps used by engineering teams to guide them as they develop new solutions, products or systems. The process is cyclical and iterative. Also called the engineering design cycle.

  24. Quantum Leap: Redefining Complex Problem-Solving

    The traveling salesman problem is considered a prime example of a combinatorial optimization problem. Now a Berlin team led by theoretical physicist Prof. Dr. Jens Eisert of Freie Universität Berlin and HZB has shown that a certain class of such problems can actually be solved better and much faster with quantum computers than with conventional methods.

  25. Search for Cloud Technology Jobs and Careers with NetApp

    As a Software QA Engineer, you will work as part of a team of skilled engineers accountable for participating in the development, testing, debugging, and maintenance of an enterprise data protection suite of products. ... We reward innovation and problem-solving. Learn more. Jobs for you. Related jobs. Software Engineer Bengaluru India;

  26. Ossining High School robotics club builds future engineers

    Ossining High School Engineering Club helps learn problem solving and public speaking skills. ... we're able to learn problem-solving skills on the spot and we're also able to talk to judges at ...

  27. Meet Devin AI, the world's 'first fully autonomous' AI software engineer

    US-based applied AI lab, Cognition, has introduced what it claims is the world's first AI software engineer. The makers say that the AI agent, named Devin, has passed practical engineering interviews held by leading AI companies. Cognition claims it has also completed real jobs posted on Upwork, an US-based freelancing platform.

  28. Literature Review on STEM Education and Its Awareness among Teachers

    The different skills used by the scientists in their designs like in engineering design involve creativity, collaboration, communication, and problem-solving known as 21st Century skills. The workshops were conducted consisting of the five-step inquiry cycle that is, Ask, Plan, Explore, Construct, and Reflect in which students did their ...

  29. Robotics event in Aurora about critical thinking

    Other than the collaborative learning, Wong said the biggest takeaways of the program "are problem-solving, figuring out how to make things work, a lot of trial-and-error, analysis and critical ...