Steps in Engineering Problem Solving

1. Understand the purpose of the problem.

2. Collect the known information. Realize that some of it might be discovered later to be unnecessary.

3. Determine what information you must find.

4. Simplify the problem only enough to allow the required information to be obtained. State any assumptions you make.

5. Draw a sketch and label any necessary variables.

6. Determine which of the fundamental principles are applicable.

7. Think about your proposed solution approach in general and consider other approaches before proceeding with the details.

Interpret the mathematics. If the mathematics produces multiple answers, do not discard some of them without considering what they mean. The mathematics might be trying to tell you something, and you might miss an opportunity to discover more about the problem.

8. Label each step of the solution process.

9. Solve the problem. If you are solving the problem with a computer program:

· State the problem concisely.

· Specify the data to be used by the program. This is the “input”.

· Specify the information to be generated by the program. This is called the “output”.

· Work through the solution steps by hand using a simple data set.

You may only be able to do a partial solution or nothing at all here.

· Write and run the program.

· Check the output of the program with your hand solution.

Checking the dimensions and units and printing the results of intermediate steps in the calculation sequence can uncover mistakes.

· Run the program with your actual input data (if different from your simple test data) and perform a reality check on the output. That is, determine if the range of output values is reasonable for the problem at hand.

Checking the dimensions and units and printing the results of intermediate steps in the calculation sequence can uncover mistakes.

· If the program will be used as a general tool in the future, test it by running it for a range of reasonable input data values; perform a reality check on the results.

10. Present your solution using graphs and data tables to good effect. Do not state the answer with any greater precision than is justified by any of the following:

· The precision of the given information.

· The simplifying assumptions.

· The requirements of the problem.