Science Fair Prototype

Science Fair Prototype

Finding an Idea for Your Engineering Project

You know that you want to do an engineering design project, but how do you come up with an idea or find a problem to solve? How do you uncover a new problem that no one has tried to solve yet? Or how do you pick and choose, from all of the products, systems, and environments already out there, one that you might want to improve? This process of uncovering a problem, or identifying the need for change or improvement to an existing solution, is called need finding.

One really great way to start the need-finding process is to make a "bug list." Think about all of the things that bug you or bug other people around you. Write them down. They may seem like small and silly problems, but they can spark ideas for a project or lead to larger problems that you may not have noticed otherwise.

Here are some examples of things you might find on someone's bug list:

  1. Uncomfortable airplane seats
  2. When one light on a string of Christmas lights goes out
  3. How quickly chewing gum loses flavor
  4. Moving (packing boxes, cleaning, unpacking, etc.)
  5. Public restrooms without toilet paper
  6. Long lines at amusement parks
  7. When food gets stuck in vending machines
  8. Dog or cat hair that gets stuck on clothing
  9. Sharing armrests with strangers at the movies
  10. Wasting water in the shower
  11. Losing one earring
  12. Draining tuna fish cans
  13. Wasting food in the cafeteria during lunch
  14. Spreading cold and flu germs
  15. Students missing school
  16. More on the bug list


Challenge yourself to come up with as many bugs as you can. They don't all have to be things that bother you; think about other people and the problems that they face as well. Ask your parents for ideas. You will be surprised at the number of bugs you can identify in the world around you. DressScience ScienceScience Check out the PBS video for some awesome ideas as well PBS Prototype Videos

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