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  • Problem Solving

Lesson Problem Solving

Grade Level: 8 (6-8)

(two 40-minute class periods)

Lesson Dependency: The Energy Problem

Subject Areas: Physical Science, Science and Technology

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Curriculum in this Unit Units serve as guides to a particular content or subject area. Nested under units are lessons (in purple) and hands-on activities (in blue). Note that not all lessons and activities will exist under a unit, and instead may exist as "standalone" curriculum.

  • Energy Forms and States Demonstrations
  • Energy Conversions
  • Watt Meters to Measure Energy Consumption
  • Household Energy Audit
  • Light vs. Heat Bulbs
  • Efficiency of an Electromechanical System
  • Efficiency of a Water Heating System
  • Solving Energy Problems
  • Energy Projects

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Engineering connection, learning objectives, worksheets and attachments, more curriculum like this, introduction/motivation, associated activities, user comments & tips.

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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.

  • Students demonstrate an understanding of the Technological Method of Problem Solving.
  • Students are able to apply the Technological Method of Problem Solving to a real-life problem.

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 ( 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.

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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." This is a seven-step procedure that is highly iterative—you may go back and forth among the listed steps, and may not always follow them in order. Remember that in most engineering projects, more than one good answer exists. The goal is to get to the best solution for a given problem. Following the lesson conduct the associated activities Egg Drop and Solving Energy Problems for students to employ problem solving methods and techniques. 

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

The overall concept that is important in this lesson is: Using a standard method or procedure to solve problems makes the process easier and more effective.

1) Describe the problem, 2) describe the results you want, 3) gather information, 4) think of solutions, 5) choose the best solution, 6) implement the solution, 7) evaluate results and make necessary changes. Reenter the design spiral at any step to revise as necessary.

The specific process of problem solving used in this unit was adapted from an eighth-grade technology textbook written for New York State standard technology curriculum. The process is shown in Figure 1, with details included below. The spiral shape shows that this is an iterative, not linear, process. The process can skip ahead (for example, build a model early in the process to test a proof of concept) and go backwards (learn more about the problem or potential solutions if early ideas do not work well).

This process provides a reference that can be reiterated throughout the unit as students learn new material or ideas that are relevant to the completion of their unit projects.

Brainstorming about what we know about a problem or project and what we need to find out to move forward in a project is often a good starting point when faced with a new problem. This type of questioning provides a basis and relevance that is useful in other energy science and technology units. In this unit, the general problem that is addressed is the fact that Americans use a lot of energy, with the consequences that we have a dwindling supply of fossil fuels, and we are emitting a lot of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants. The specific project that students are assigned to address is an aspect of this problem that requires them to identify an action they can take in their own live to reduce their overall energy (or fossil fuel) consumption.

The Seven Steps of Problem Solving

1.  Identify the problem

Clearly state the problem. (Short, sweet and to the point. This is the "big picture" problem, not the specific project you have been assigned.)

2.  Establish what you want to achieve

  • Completion of a specific project that will help to solve the overall problem.
  • In one sentence answer the following question: How will I know I've completed this project?
  • List criteria and constraints: Criteria are things you want the solution to have. Constraints are limitations, sometimes called specifications, or restrictions that should be part of the solution. They could be the type of materials, the size or weight the solution must meet, the specific tools or machines you have available, time you have to complete the task and cost of construction or materials.

3.  Gather information and research

  • Research is sometimes needed both to better understand the problem itself as well as possible solutions.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel – looking at other solutions can lead to better solutions.
  • Use past experiences.

4.  Brainstorm possible solutions

List and/or sketch (as appropriate) as many solutions as you can think of.

5.  Choose the best solution

Evaluate solution by: 1) Comparing possible solution against constraints and criteria 2) Making trade-offs to identify "best."

6.  Implement the solution

  • Develop plans that include (as required): drawings with measurements, details of construction, construction procedure.
  • Define tasks and resources necessary for implementation.
  • Implement actual plan as appropriate for your particular project.

7.  Test and evaluate the solution

  • Compare the solution against the criteria and constraints.
  • Define how you might modify the solution for different or better results.
  • Egg Drop - Use this demonstration or activity to introduce and use the problem solving method. Encourages creative design.
  • Solving Energy Problems - Unit project is assigned and students begin with problem solving techniques to begin to address project. Mostly they learn that they do not know enough yet to solve the problem.
  • Energy Projects - Students use what they learned about energy systems to create a project related to identifying and carrying out a personal change to reduce energy consumption.

The results of the problem solving activity provide a basis for the entire semester project. Collect and review the worksheets to make sure that students are started on the right track.

engineers problem solving

Learn the basics of the analysis of forces engineers perform at the truss joints to calculate the strength of a truss bridge known as the “method of joints.” Find the tensions and compressions to solve systems of linear equations where the size depends on the number of elements and nodes in the trus...

preview of 'Doing the Math: Analysis of Forces in a Truss Bridge' Lesson

Through role playing and problem solving, this lesson sets the stage for a friendly competition between groups to design and build a shielding device to protect humans traveling in space. The instructor asks students—how might we design radiation shielding for space travel?

preview of 'Shielding from Cosmic Radiation: Space Agency Scenario' Lesson

A process for technical problem solving is introduced and applied to a fun demonstration. Given the success with the demo, the iterative nature of the process can be illustrated.

preview of 'Egg Drop' Activity

The culminating energy project is introduced and the technical problem solving process is applied to get students started on the project. By the end of the class, students should have a good perspective on what they have already learned and what they still need to learn to complete the project.

preview of 'Solving Energy Problems' Activity

Hacker, M, Barden B., Living with Technology , 2nd edition. Albany NY: Delmar Publishers, 1993.

Other Related Information

This lesson was originally published by the Clarkson University K-12 Project Based Learning Partnership Program and may be accessed at


Supporting program, acknowledgements.

This lesson was developed under National Science Foundation grants no. DUE 0428127 and DGE 0338216. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: August 16, 2023

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3 What is Problem Solving?

Chapter table of contents, what is problem solving.

  • What Does Problem Solving Look Like?

Developing Problem Solving Processes

Summary of strategies, problem solving:  an important job skill.

engineers problem solving

The ability to solve problems is a basic life skill and is essential to our day-to-day lives, at home, at school, and at work. We solve problems every day without really thinking about how we solve them. For example: it’s raining and you need to go to the store. What do you do? There are lots of possible solutions. Take your umbrella and walk. If you don’t want to get wet, you can drive, or take the bus. You might decide to call a friend for a ride, or you might decide to go to the store another day. There is no right way to solve this problem and different people will solve it differently.

Problem solving is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action.

Why is problem solving important? Good problem solving skills empower you not only in your personal life but are critical in your professional life. In the current fast-changing global economy, employers often identify everyday problem solving as crucial to the success of their organizations. For employees, problem solving can be used to develop practical and creative solutions, and to show independence and initiative to employers.

what does problem solving look like?

engineers problem solving

The ability to solve problems is a skill at which you can improve.  So how exactly do you practice problem solving? Learning about different problem solving strategies and when to use them will give you a good start. Problem solving is a process. Most strategies provide steps that help you identify the problem and choose the best solution. There are two basic types of strategies: algorithmic and heuristic.

Algorithmic strategies are traditional step-by-step guides to solving problems. They are great for solving math problems (in algebra: multiply and divide, then add or subtract) or for helping us remember the correct order of things (a mnemonic such as “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to remember which way the clock changes for daylight saving time, or “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey” to remember what direction to turn bolts and screws). Algorithms are best when there is a single path to the correct solution.

But what do you do when there is no single solution for your problem? Heuristic methods are general guides used to identify possible solutions. A popular one that is easy to remember is IDEAL [Bransford & Stein [1] ] :

IDEAL is just one problem solving strategy. Building a toolbox of problem solving strategies will improve your problem solving skills. With practice, you will be able to recognize and use multiple strategies to solve complex problems.

What is the best way to get a peanut out of a tube that cannot be moved? Watch a chimpanzee solve this problem in the video below [Geert Stienissen [2] ].

Problem solving is a process that uses steps to solve problems. But what does that really mean? Let's break it down and start building our toolbox of problem solving strategies.

What is the first step of solving any problem? The first step is to recognize that there is a problem and identify the right cause of the problem. This may sound obvious, but similar problems can arise from different events, and the real issue may not always be apparent. To really solve the problem, it's important to find out what started it all. This is called identifying the root cause .

Example: You and your classmates have been working long hours on a project in the school's workshop. The next afternoon, you try to use your student ID card to access the workshop, but discover that your magnetic strip has been demagnetized. Since the card was a couple of years old, you chalk it up to wear and tear and get a new ID card. Later that same week you learn that several of your classmates had the same problem! After a little investigation, you discover that a strong magnet was stored underneath a workbench in the workshop. The magnet was the root cause of the demagnetized student ID cards.

The best way to identify the root cause of the problem is to ask questions and gather information. If you have a vague problem, investigating facts is more productive than guessing a solution. Ask yourself questions about the problem. What do you know about the problem? What do you not know? When was the last time it worked correctly? What has changed since then? Can you diagram the process into separate steps? Where in the process is the problem occurring? Be curious, ask questions, gather facts, and make logical deductions rather than assumptions.

When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money. Although, each path in this exercise ended with a description of a problem solving tool for your toolbox, the first step is always to identify the problem and define the context in which it happened.

There are several strategies that can be used to identify the root cause of a problem. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred. RCA uses a specific set of steps, with associated tools like the “5 Why Analysis" or the “Cause and Effect Diagram,” to identify the origin of the problem, so that you can:

Once the underlying cause is identified and the scope of the issue defined, the next step is to explore possible strategies to fix the problem.

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. When you collaborate to solve problems you improve workplace communication and accelerates finding solutions as similar problems arise.

One tool that can be useful for generating possible solutions is brainstorming . Brainstorming is a technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can, in a fixed amount of time. Although brainstorming is best done in a group, it can be done individually.

Depending on your path through the exercise, you may have discovered that a couple of your coworkers had experienced similar problems. This should have been an indicator that there was a larger problem that needed to be addressed.

In any workplace, communication of problems and issues (especially those that involve safety) is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they be addressed in an efficient and timely manner.  Because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money; effective communication is an important tool..

One strategy for improving communication is the huddle . Just like football players on the field, a huddle is a short meeting with everyone standing in a circle.   It's always important that team members are aware of how their work impacts one another.  A daily team huddle is a great way to ensure that as well as making team members aware of changes to the schedule or any problems or safety issues that have been identified. When done right, huddles create collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. Impromptu huddles can be used to gather information on a specific issue and get each team member's input.

"Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.” — Richard Sloma

Problem solving improves efficiency and communication on the shop floor. It increases a company's efficiency and profitability, so it's one of the top skills employers look for when hiring new employees.  Employers consider professional skills, such as problem solving, as critical to their business’s success.

The 2011 survey, "Boiling Point? The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing [3] ," polled over a thousand manufacturing executives who reported that the number one skill deficiency among their current employees is problem solving, which makes it difficult for their companies to adapt to the changing needs of the industry.

  • Bransford, J. & Stein, B.S. (). The Ideal Problem Solver: A Guide For Improving Thinking, Learning, And Creativity . New York, NY: W.H. Freeman. ↵
  • National Geographic. [Geert Stienissen]. (2010, August 19). Insight learning: Chimpanzee Problem Solving [Video file]. Retrieved from ↵
  • Report: Boiling Point: The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing Deloitte / The Manufacturing Institute, October 2011. Retrieved from ↵

Introduction to Industrial Engineering Copyright © 2020 by Bonnie Boardman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Engineering Passion

Tips for Solving Engineering Problems Effectively

engineers problem solving

Problem solving is the process of determining the best feasible action to take in a given situation. Problem solving is an essential skill for engineers to have. Engineers are problem solvers, as the popular quote says:

“Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.” – Scott Adams

Engineers are faced with a range of problems in their everyday life. The nature of problems that engineers must solve differs between and among the various disciplines of engineering. Because of the diversity of problems there is no universal list of procedures that will fit every engineering problem. Engineers use various approaches while solving problems.

Engineering problems must be approached systematically, applying an algorithm, or step-by-step practice by which one arrives at a feasible solution. In this post, we’ve prepared a list of tips for solving engineering problems effectively.

#1 Identify the Problem

Identify the Problem

Evaluating the needs or identifying the problem is a key step in finding a solution for engineering problems. Recognize and describe the problem accurately by exploring it thoroughly. Define what question is to be answered and what outputs or results are to be produced. Also determine the available data and information about the problem in hand.

An improper definition of the problem will cause the engineer to waste time, lengthen the problem solving process and finally arrive at an incorrect solution. It is essential that the stated needs be real needs.

As an engineer, you should also be careful not to make the problem pointlessly bound. Placing too many limitations on the problem may make the solution extremely complex and tough or impossible to solve. To put it simply, eliminate the unnecessary details and only keep relevant details and the root problem.

#2 Collect Relevant Information and Data

Collect Relevant Information and Data

After defining the problem, an engineer begins to collect all the relevant information and data needed to solve the problem. The collected data could be physical measurements, maps, outcomes of laboratory experiments, patents, results of conducted surveys, or any number of other types of information. Verify the accuracy of the collected data and information.

As an engineer, you should always try to build on what has already been done before. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Information on related problems that have been solved or unsolved earlier, may help engineers find the optimal solution for a given problem.

#3 Search for Creative Solutions

Search for Creative Solutions

There are a number of methods to help a group or individual to produce original creative ideas. The development of these new ideas may come from creativity, a subconscious effort, or innovation, a conscious effort.

You can try to visualize the problem or make a conceptual model for the given problem. So think of visualizing the given problem and see if that can help you gain more knowledge about the problem.

#4 Develop a Mathematical Model

Develop a Mathematical Model

Mathematical modeling is the art of translating problems from an application area into tractable mathematical formulations whose theoretical and numerical analysis provides insight, answers, and guidance useful for the originating application.

To develop a mathematical model for the problem, determine what basic principles are applicable and then draw sketches or block diagrams to better understand the problem. Then define and introduce the necessary variables so that the problem is stated purely in mathematical terms.

Afterwards, simplify the problem so that you can obtain the required result. Also identify the and justify the assumptions and constraints in the mathematical model.

#5 Use Computational Method

Use Computational Method

You can use a computational method based on the mathematical method you’ve developed for the problem. Derive a set of equations that enable the calculation of the desired parameters and variables as described in your mathematical model. You can also develop an algorithm, or step-by-step procedure of evaluating the equations involved in the solution.

To do so, describe the algorithm in mathematical terms and then execute it as a computer program.

#6 Repeat the Problem Solving Process

Repeat the Problem Solving Process

Not every problem solving is immediately successful. Problems aren’t always solved appropriately the first time. You’ve to rethink and repeat the problem solving process or choose an alternative solution or approach to solving the problem.


Engineers often use the reverse-engineering method to solve problems. For example, by taking things apart to identify a problem, finding a solution and then putting the object back together again. Engineers are creative , they know how things work, and so they constantly analyze things and discover how they work.

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.

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

Credits: CEUs: 2.30 | PDHs: 23.00

Language: English - US

Learn root cause analysis (RCA) fundamentals, explore RCA tools' purpose and application, and perform RCA on real-world problems to find solutions.

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Jun 10-12th, 2024

This course commences at 9:30 AM and ends at 6PM each day, with breaks scheduled throughout. Interested in taking this course in person?  Please follow this link !

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
  • What to Watch for When Using Tools and Techniques
  • Selecting the Right Tool  
  • Example Cases and Practice

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  • Jun 29, 2020

The Problem Solving Steps all Engineers Should Know

Imagine walking into a room, everyone is clamoring for answers and after a few moments you know exactly what everyone should do to fix the problem.

You deal with problems on a daily basis as an Engineer but sometimes you run into the situation where you solve the wrong problem, or senior engineers get frustrated with how long it's taking to complete a task - perhaps they gave you some vague problem statement and when you asked for some direction it was still high level because it should be "obvious".

I think where people get caught is the Senior engineers giving out tasks aren't necessarily looking to walk you through a solution, they want a problem to go away, they want to spend as close to zero brain cells on the problem (at this point in time). So your job is to make it go away and not to use their brain cycles.

But this is counter intuitive, if I don't know where to start or I take too long then that will also be frustrating since the problem will still be there.

Correct. So you are caught in between a rock and a hard place. But it's not the worst and we can certainly equip ourselves with the skills we need to handle these situations.

What's the situation?

Problem Solving and reducing our "mean-time to solve". There's a spectrum of problems one can consider and if you realize this you can see that more complex problems do require more time to solve - there's an "expected" time to solve. So you want to perform in such a way that you are below this line as much as is practicable.

engineers problem solving

I've worked in Engineering for over a decade now and I can tell you that for sure there are specific tricks to solving particular problems specific to the industry, company, field, technology, etc. You gain these by purely time. Working on problems and solutions in that area. This is why experience is king - but it is also overrated sometimes.

Someone with 5 years more experience may not be very good and if you only looked at the number of years you would be none the wiser.

So how can we overcome this hurdle and forget the number of years we've worked and just perform better?

Use the book 10+1 Steps to Problem Solving: An Engineers Guide.

Here I created simple steps to follow that looks at a more birds-eye view but is so practical you can apply it to any situation.

But this isn't some "one-size fits all" methodology, nor is it "how do I calculate the potential energy in this craft", "how do you enable this features in this software". Don't get it twisted.

But it does help formalize your approach, use the right mindset and ask the right questions at the various stages of problem solving.

What's wrong with Steps to Problem Solving lists out there? They are mostly correct, but the primary issue is they are so generic and have little practicality. They lay out steps around identification of the problem, analysis, breaking it down to small bits, evaluating. But more often than not they spend half the time talking about implementation, working out the kinks, timing, etc.

This presents 2 problems:

It is super slow

It is solution focused

I'm not saying you shouldn't plan out your solutions and have implementation plans, timings, schedules, documentation - you need these (at the solution stage). But when you plan out how you are going to try to fix something and spend all this time pondering - you could have simply tried and moved on.

You either fixed it or you got more data.

You iterate faster through your questions, quick testing of the obvious things, getting eyes on the situation in the correct way, checking your fundamentals and proceeding from there. (These are still in the first three steps by the way).

The rest of the steps are still focused on going deeper into the rabbit hole to solve your problems. This is when you are stuck, for hours, days, weeks!

So what are the steps?

Here's direct extract of the index:

The Question

The Obvious

Check Yourself

The RTFM Protocol

What about the Environment?


The Secret Step

The book goes on to explain each of these steps and provide a checklist style summary at the end of each. You can practically use this as a framework to approach problems, particularly tricky ones so that you can reduce the average amount of time you spend fixing things. There's real examples from easy to difficult ones covered so you gain context on how to fix.

I really wanted to help as many people as I can with this so I actually made the book completely free. You can get online access and read the whole thing from my website here .

It will require you create an account but other than that you are good.

At the time of this writing only the first 2 chapters are available, but you are getting early access as the book isn't set to release until the 4th Quarter of this year! (In time for Christmas).

You can register to get notified when the release is coming out so you can be first in line to get your own copy.

What's the advantage of problem solving this way?

So if you remember to the opening of this article we did cover some of the pain points and frustrations that can happen in an engineering career. So think of it this way, if you can consistently solve problems and make things go away, or better yet, things seem to get fixed faster when you are around - then you'll be wanted around.

This tends to have a compounding effect where you help others solve their problems simply by understanding this method and asking the right questions to get them to their own answer, and now people want you on bigger projects.

You do this and gain more responsibility and then now you have the foundation for increasing your pay, your role and your impact. (There's challenges here of course but I will have courses and free content to address these). You can become one of the "go to" engineers in your company.

Every Engineer should be aware of these problem solving steps.

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What Is Problem Solving? How Software Engineers Approach Complex Challenges

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From debugging an existing system to designing an entirely new software application, a day in the life of a software engineer is filled with various challenges and complexities. The one skill that glues these disparate tasks together and makes them manageable? Problem solving . 

Throughout this blog post, we’ll explore why problem-solving skills are so critical for software engineers, delve into the techniques they use to address complex challenges, and discuss how hiring managers can identify these skills during the hiring process. 

What Is Problem Solving?

But what exactly is problem solving in the context of software engineering? How does it work, and why is it so important?

Problem solving, in the simplest terms, is the process of identifying a problem, analyzing it, and finding the most effective solution to overcome it. For software engineers, this process is deeply embedded in their daily workflow. It could be something as simple as figuring out why a piece of code isn’t working as expected, or something as complex as designing the architecture for a new software system. 

In a world where technology is evolving at a blistering pace, the complexity and volume of problems that software engineers face are also growing. As such, the ability to tackle these issues head-on and find innovative solutions is not only a handy skill — it’s a necessity. 

The Importance of Problem-Solving Skills for Software Engineers

Problem-solving isn’t just another ability that software engineers pull out of their toolkits when they encounter a bug or a system failure. It’s a constant, ongoing process that’s intrinsic to every aspect of their work. Let’s break down why this skill is so critical.

Driving Development Forward

Without problem solving, software development would hit a standstill. Every new feature, every optimization, and every bug fix is a problem that needs solving. Whether it’s a performance issue that needs diagnosing or a user interface that needs improving, the capacity to tackle and solve these problems is what keeps the wheels of development turning.

It’s estimated that 60% of software development lifecycle costs are related to maintenance tasks, including debugging and problem solving. This highlights how pivotal this skill is to the everyday functioning and advancement of software systems.

Innovation and Optimization

The importance of problem solving isn’t confined to reactive scenarios; it also plays a major role in proactive, innovative initiatives . Software engineers often need to think outside the box to come up with creative solutions, whether it’s optimizing an algorithm to run faster or designing a new feature to meet customer needs. These are all forms of problem solving.

Consider the development of the modern smartphone. It wasn’t born out of a pre-existing issue but was a solution to a problem people didn’t realize they had — a device that combined communication, entertainment, and productivity into one handheld tool.

Increasing Efficiency and Productivity

Good problem-solving skills can save a lot of time and resources. Effective problem-solvers are adept at dissecting an issue to understand its root cause, thus reducing the time spent on trial and error. This efficiency means projects move faster, releases happen sooner, and businesses stay ahead of their competition.

Improving Software Quality

Problem solving also plays a significant role in enhancing the quality of the end product. By tackling the root causes of bugs and system failures, software engineers can deliver reliable, high-performing software. This is critical because, according to the Consortium for Information and Software Quality, poor quality software in the U.S. in 2022 cost at least $2.41 trillion in operational issues, wasted developer time, and other related problems.

Problem-Solving Techniques in Software Engineering

So how do software engineers go about tackling these complex challenges? Let’s explore some of the key problem-solving techniques, theories, and processes they commonly use.


Breaking down a problem into smaller, manageable parts is one of the first steps in the problem-solving process. It’s like dealing with a complicated puzzle. You don’t try to solve it all at once. Instead, you separate the pieces, group them based on similarities, and then start working on the smaller sets. This method allows software engineers to handle complex issues without being overwhelmed and makes it easier to identify where things might be going wrong.


In the realm of software engineering, abstraction means focusing on the necessary information only and ignoring irrelevant details. It is a way of simplifying complex systems to make them easier to understand and manage. For instance, a software engineer might ignore the details of how a database works to focus on the information it holds and how to retrieve or modify that information.

Algorithmic Thinking

At its core, software engineering is about creating algorithms — step-by-step procedures to solve a problem or accomplish a goal. Algorithmic thinking involves conceiving and expressing these procedures clearly and accurately and viewing every problem through an algorithmic lens. A well-designed algorithm not only solves the problem at hand but also does so efficiently, saving computational resources.

Parallel Thinking

Parallel thinking is a structured process where team members think in the same direction at the same time, allowing for more organized discussion and collaboration. It’s an approach popularized by Edward de Bono with the “ Six Thinking Hats ” technique, where each “hat” represents a different style of thinking.

In the context of software engineering, parallel thinking can be highly effective for problem solving. For instance, when dealing with a complex issue, the team can use the “White Hat” to focus solely on the data and facts about the problem, then the “Black Hat” to consider potential problems with a proposed solution, and so on. This structured approach can lead to more comprehensive analysis and more effective solutions, and it ensures that everyone’s perspectives are considered.

This is the process of identifying and fixing errors in code . Debugging involves carefully reviewing the code, reproducing and analyzing the error, and then making necessary modifications to rectify the problem. It’s a key part of maintaining and improving software quality.

Testing and Validation

Testing is an essential part of problem solving in software engineering. Engineers use a variety of tests to verify that their code works as expected and to uncover any potential issues. These range from unit tests that check individual components of the code to integration tests that ensure the pieces work well together. Validation, on the other hand, ensures that the solution not only works but also fulfills the intended requirements and objectives.

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Evaluating Problem-Solving Skills

We’ve examined the importance of problem-solving in the work of a software engineer and explored various techniques software engineers employ to approach complex challenges. Now, let’s delve into how hiring teams can identify and evaluate problem-solving skills during the hiring process.

Recognizing Problem-Solving Skills in Candidates

How can you tell if a candidate is a good problem solver? Look for these indicators:

  • Previous Experience: A history of dealing with complex, challenging projects is often a good sign. Ask the candidate to discuss a difficult problem they faced in a previous role and how they solved it.
  • Problem-Solving Questions: During interviews, pose hypothetical scenarios or present real problems your company has faced. Ask candidates to explain how they would tackle these issues. You’re not just looking for a correct solution but the thought process that led them there.
  • Technical Tests: Coding challenges and other technical tests can provide insight into a candidate’s problem-solving abilities. Consider leveraging a platform for assessing these skills in a realistic, job-related context.

Assessing Problem-Solving Skills

Once you’ve identified potential problem solvers, here are a few ways you can assess their skills:

  • Solution Effectiveness: Did the candidate solve the problem? How efficient and effective is their solution?
  • Approach and Process: Go beyond whether or not they solved the problem and examine how they arrived at their solution. Did they break the problem down into manageable parts? Did they consider different perspectives and possibilities?
  • Communication: A good problem solver can explain their thought process clearly. Can the candidate effectively communicate how they arrived at their solution and why they chose it?
  • Adaptability: Problem-solving often involves a degree of trial and error. How does the candidate handle roadblocks? Do they adapt their approach based on new information or feedback?

Hiring managers play a crucial role in identifying and fostering problem-solving skills within their teams. By focusing on these abilities during the hiring process, companies can build teams that are more capable, innovative, and resilient.

Key Takeaways

As you can see, problem solving plays a pivotal role in software engineering. Far from being an occasional requirement, it is the lifeblood that drives development forward, catalyzes innovation, and delivers of quality software. 

By leveraging problem-solving techniques, software engineers employ a powerful suite of strategies to overcome complex challenges. But mastering these techniques isn’t simple feat. It requires a learning mindset, regular practice, collaboration, reflective thinking, resilience, and a commitment to staying updated with industry trends. 

For hiring managers and team leads, recognizing these skills and fostering a culture that values and nurtures problem solving is key. It’s this emphasis on problem solving that can differentiate an average team from a high-performing one and an ordinary product from an industry-leading one.

At the end of the day, software engineering is fundamentally about solving problems — problems that matter to businesses, to users, and to the wider society. And it’s the proficient problem solvers who stand at the forefront of this dynamic field, turning challenges into opportunities, and ideas into reality.

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TECC 244: Practical Problem-Solving Skills for Engineers

April 13, 2021 By EMI

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Practical Problem-Solving Skills for Engineers

In this episode, I talk to Andrew Sario, an intelligent transport systems engineer and OT cyber specialist, creator of Engineering IRL, and engineering book author, about problem-solving skills for engineers. Andrew provides some great tips that will help you to master these skills and become the best engineer you could be. Be sure to listen to the end of this episode for a special offer from guest Andrew Sario.

Engineering Quotes:


Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Practical Problem-Solving Skills for Engineers:

  • When working on many different projects, work on each one cyclically. It will make it easier to transition from one to the other and know what you need to do next. Breaking up each project into smaller chunks helps you not feel overwhelmed by the entire project.
  • 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-solving techniques that you already have. It is a tool to help you think about the problem you have and solve it.
  • Engineering problem-solving consists of breaking down big problems into smaller, solvable, individual parts and then putting them back together to solve the bigger problem. Many engineering problems are bigger than what one person can solve. Using a team to solve this problem is beneficial. Engineers capture the best practices over time to solve problems more safely and efficiently than before.
  • If a problem has a known solution, then use it. Sometimes you need to use tools that give you a different perspective of the problem to solve the problem.
  • Whatever tasks are given to you, no matter how small or trivial, do them well.
  • Look for solutions to the problems that are standing in the way of your team moving forward. It will give people the mentality to see you as a problem-solver. When doing this, remember to keep step 1 in context.
  • To get better at solving problems, you need to practice solving problems. Be happy if you fail in solving some of the problems you face. It adds to your practicing, and you learn what not to do next time.

The 10+1 Steps to Problem-Solving for Engineers Are:

  • Are you asking the correct question? – Make sure you are asking the correct question from the beginning of your problem-solving techniques.
  • The obvious. – Try the known solutions. If they do not work the first time, try them again, and they might work.
  • Eyes. – Ensure you have all the correct tools in place to give you clues about the problem.
  • Check yourself. – Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Make sure that all the basics are in place before getting too technical about solving the problem.
  • Google it. – You do not have to know everything already, so Google for solutions to your problem. If you have a specific problem, there are online forums that you can consult about it.
  • The R.T.F.M. protocol. – Read the manual. You could be surprised by the information you find in it.
  • Strip . – Strip down the complexities of the problem and look for something basic to solve first. Prove you know something about the problem.
  • What about the environment? – Look for things outside of your problem that could be influencing or impacting it.
  • Phone a friend. – Ask someone who might know of a solution.
  • Pray – Talk about your problem aloud to yourself. Find an inanimate object and tell it the problem you have and what is needed to solve it. It can get your subconscious working and help you get clarity on what is needed to solve it.
  • You can find this step in the book – “ 10+1 Steps to Problem Solving: An Engineer’s Guide .”

More in This Episode…

In the Take Action Today segment of the show, Andrew talks about one tip for engineers to be better at problem-solving.

About Andrew Sario

Engineering IRL

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein

Books Mentioned in This Episode:

10+1 Steps to Problem Solving: An Engineer’s Guide

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Resources and Links Mentioned in This Session Include:

Engineering in Real Life Cloudmate Networks Cisco Meraki Technology Connect with Andrew Sario on LinkedIn Send Andrew Sario an email

We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you can share on practical problem-solving skills for engineers.

Please leave your comments, feedback, or questions in the section below.

  • If you enjoyed this post, please consider downloading our free list of 33 Productivity Routines of Top Engineering Executives. Click the button below to download. Download the Productivity Routines

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Jeff Perry, MBA Host of The Engineering Career Coach Podcast

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

Purdue University

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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7 Engineering Challenges Design Thinking Can Help Solve

Engineer seated at desk using computer

  • 19 Jan 2023

Several challenges face the engineering industry. Addressing them requires innovative solutions and structured processes, such as design thinking.

If you’re an engineer who wants to develop business skills , here's an overview of design thinking and seven engineering challenges it can help solve.

What Is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is one of the most effective approaches to problem-solving. It’s a solutions-based methodology focused on human-centered design and observing problems with empathy.

In the online course Design Thinking and Innovation , Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar structures the process using a four-stage framework. The stages are:

Graphic showing design thinking's four stages: clarify, ideate, develop, and implement

In the clarification stage, you observe a situation or challenge without bias and frame your findings in the form of a problem statement.

“Before you begin to generate innovative solutions for your own design problem, you must always think hard about how you’re going to frame that problem,” Datar says in the course.

Reframing the problem as a question is an excellent way to do this. For example, using "how might we" instead of "the problem is" can encourage empathy in the design process and shift your mindset toward potential solutions.

These questions are particularly important when considering empathetic design. According to the Harvard Business Review , engineers who put themselves in their audience's shoes while designing often develop innovative products . By understanding your audience’s unexpressed needs, you can effectively leverage your technical knowledge to create innovative solutions to previously unknown problems.

Once you've made your observations, you can explore potential solutions. The ideate stage is for divergent thinking—the process of exploring as many ideas as possible. It involves:

  • Finding and categorizing similarities in users' pain points
  • Considering the resources available to you and how you can use them to solve a problem
  • Brainstorming potential solutions

Creativity and an open mind are vital at this stage. As you explore ideas, they can highlight other problems you were unaware of.

The development stage focuses on turning your ideas into workable prototypes. For ideas to be innovative, they must be both new and useful ; many, though creative, aren't feasible.

"As you prototype concepts in phase three, you may discover results that force you to return to phases one and two to reframe your question," Datar says in Design Thinking and Innovation .

This iteration can occur in any of the four stages because each involves a different level of exploration that highlights new problems, questions, or solutions. This isn't cause for discouragement.

"Do not think of this as a setback,” Datar says in the course. “Iterating on solutions is a normal and expected result of design thinking.”

Design thinking’s ultimate objective is finding effective, workable solutions. The implementation phase involves finalizing developments and communicating their value to stakeholders.

This final stage can be challenging for many engineers. Since their work is so technical, it’s sometimes difficult for stakeholders to understand their impact on the organization. As a result, engineers should develop effective communication skills to ensure their ideas are implemented.

The Importance of Design Thinking in Engineering

Design thinking is a valuable skill for engineers to learn for several reasons. For one, engineering positions are among the most common occupations requiring design thinking skills .

Since engineers are often responsible for solving complex problems, it’s easy to get lost in the details and set creative problem-solving skills aside. Creativity in business is beneficial because it:

  • Encourages innovation
  • Boosts productivity
  • Allows for adaptability
  • Fosters growth

Graphic listing the benefits of creativity in business

Leveraging design thinking skills to pursue innovation not only helps professionals find creative solutions but identify business opportunities , evaluate market needs , and design new products and services.

Engineers’ responsibilities can vary. Whether creating new products or maintaining existing ones, engineering revolves around design . For this reason, a systematic approach is highly valuable when encountering industry challenges.

7 Engineering Challenges Design Thinking Can Solve

Some of the challenges engineers often face include:

  • Identifying obscure problems
  • Overcoming cognitive fixedness
  • Designing sustainable innovations
  • Addressing the skilled labor shortage
  • Encouraging diversity
  • Keeping up with advancing technology
  • Overcoming status-quo bias

Here’s an overview of how design thinking can help solve these problems.

1. Identifying Obscure Problems

Engineers often encounter problems that are difficult to identify. As a result, it can be easy for them to jump to conclusions based on preexisting knowledge of a design or situation. Datar discourages this in Design Thinking and Innovation .

"Whenever you have a difficult problem, you tend to solve the fringes of it,” Datar says. “But try and go for the most important part that you need to solve."

For example, if you're trying to remove a major obstacle preventing a project’s completion, you might be tempted to search for a cause equal in scope to its impact. However, some of the biggest design problems can be caused by something as simple as a misplaced hyphen or a loose screw. Often, the best approach is to consider the bigger picture. Is there anything in the design you don't understand?

The clarification stage in the design thinking framework encourages you to obtain insights through unbiased observation. An effective tool to accomplish this is journey mapping , which involves creating a chronological visual timeline of everything you know about a problem.

According to Design Thinking and Innovation , the three steps to developing a journey map are:

  • Creating observations about the user's journey
  • Writing those observations on a timeline
  • Organizing the observations into different stages

Creating a timeline of events can help identify when a problem occurs, as well as what precedes and follows it. This can enable you to narrow down its cause.

2. Overcoming Cognitive Fixedness

Cognitive fixedness is a mindset that assumes there's just one way to accomplish tasks. It considers every situation through the lens of past decisions. Thinking "if it worked in the past, it'll work now" is easy to follow, especially in the engineering industry, where replicating past successes is often the best way to proceed.

For example, while new technology trends can succeed in the market because of their innovative features, incorporating those features into an existing design might not be feasible—and even prevent you from meeting critical deadlines. Furthermore, in areas with high risk to human life—such as submarine design—it may be advisable to incorporate technology that’s proven effective before creating something new.

While caution is important, cognitive fixedness can prevent innovation, resulting in obsolescence. You must strike a balance between the operational and the innovation worlds.

The difference between the two worlds is described in Design Thinking and Innovation :

  • The operational world represents a business’s routine procedures.
  • The innovation world facilitates open-endedly exploring ideas.

Although the operational world is important, it can result in cognitive fixedness and prevent ideas’ progression. If you're struggling to overcome cognitive fixedness—whether your own or someone else's—consider why there's an unwillingness to change to determine the next steps.

3. Designing Sustainable Innovations

Climate change is a pressing issue impacting businesses around the globe . An increasing number of organizational leaders are addressing it by focusing on the triple bottom line . According to the HBS Online course Sustainable Business Strategy , the triple bottom line considers:

  • Profit: Satisfying shareholders and producing a profit
  • People: Impacting society in a positive, measurable way
  • The planet: Making a positive impact on the environment

By reframing problems and pursuing workable solutions that don't sacrifice profit, you can effectively incorporate sustainability into business strategies .

Design Thinking and Innovation | Uncover creative solutions to your business problems | Learn More

4. Addressing the Skilled Labor Shortage

The United States is experiencing a shortage of engineers , which has put a strain on employers hoping to hire qualified candidates in a shrinking market.

Consider how you'd approach this challenge from a design thinking perspective. Clarifying the problem might highlight opportunities you didn't previously think of. For instance, companies such as Google and Microsoft have invested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education , enabling more people to pursue careers in those industries.

Other companies have sought ways to attract engineering talent. It can be easy to draw candidates by raising salaries or increasing benefits, but many engineers aren't comfortable working for organizations that harm the environment. Your firm should consider adopting a sustainable business strategy that could benefit the planet and attract qualified applicants.

5. Encouraging Diversity

Engineering has historically been a male-dominated field. One of the primary causes of this imbalance is the workplace stereotype that STEM careers are masculine. This has resulted in implicit—and often direct—discouragement of women from pursuing STEM careers.

In the context of design thinking, clarifying and reframing the problem might result in questions like, "How can we empower more women to pursue STEM careers?"

Through exploring potential solutions, you may discover that encouraging and empowering a diverse population to pursue engineering can help address other challenges, such as the skilled labor shortage.

6. Keeping Up with Advancing Technology

Technology is continuously advancing; companies that fail to adapt might get left behind. For example, Blackberry was once one of the fastest-growing smartphone companies in the world. Yet, its products became obsolete when the company refused to adopt touch-screen technology. This resulted in Blackberry losing 90 percent of its market share between 2009 and 2013.

Design thinking encourages continual awareness to avoid these downward trends. Learning how to recognize opportunities and communicate them to others can prevent a business from falling behind.

7. Overcoming Status-Quo Bias

Resistance to change doesn't just occur within an organization—it happens among customers, too. This is known as status-quo bias , which is a challenge you must address during implementation.

The challenge is how to retain existing customers while appealing to the current market and acquiring new ones. Avoid assuming users will understand a design change you’ve implemented just because it makes sense to you.

According to Datar in Design Thinking and Innovation , you should consider three views during the implementation phase:

  • The developer's view: The designer with knowledge and understanding of a design's utility and benefits
  • The neutral view: Someone who doesn't have a preexisting opinion about the design
  • Stakeholders' view: Existing customers and users who have existing opinions based on the status quo

Learning how to overcome status-quo bias is critical to successful innovation.

Which HBS Online Entrepreneurship and Innovation Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Improving Your Design Thinking Skills

Whether encountering one of the engineering challenges mentioned above or something more niche, design thinking can be a valuable tool for solving them.

Learning about the process and its business applications can enable you to climb the corporate ladder and make an impact on your organization.

Ready to learn the tools you need to innovate? Enroll in our online certificate course Design Thinking and Innovation —one of our entrepreneurship and innovation courses —and develop in-demand skills that can benefit your engineering career. If you aren’t sure which HBS Online course is right for you, download our free flowchart to explore your options.

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What Are the Best Problem-Solving Techniques for a Construction Engineer?

Last Updated on June 11, 2023 by Admin

As a construction engineer , problem-solving is an essential part of your job. The efficient execution of construction projects depends on how well you can manage unexpected challenges and obstacles that arise along the way. Given the complexity of many construction projects, it is vital to have a good problem-solving toolkit at your disposal. In this article, we explore the key problem-solving techniques that construction engineers can use to navigate the challenges they face.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Role of a Construction Engineer

A construction engineer is a professional who plays a vital role in the construction industry . They are responsible for overseeing the design, planning, and implementation of construction projects. A construction engineer is a highly skilled individual who has a deep understanding of the construction process, including the various materials, techniques, and tools used in the industry.

The role of a construction engineer is critical because they are responsible for ensuring that construction projects are delivered on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards. They work closely with architects, contractors, and suppliers to ensure that projects are completed successfully.

Key Responsibilities of a Construction Engineer

Construction engineers have a wide range of responsibilities that require a combination of technical, managerial, and interpersonal skills. Some of their key responsibilities include:

  • Developing project plans and timelines: Construction engineers are responsible for creating project plans that outline the scope of the project, the timeline for completion, and the resources required to complete the project. They work closely with architects and contractors to ensure that the project plan is feasible and realistic.
  • Preparing cost estimates and budgets: Construction engineers are responsible for preparing cost estimates and budgets for construction projects. They consider factors such as labor costs, material costs, and equipment costs when preparing these estimates.
  • Overseeing the hiring of contractors and suppliers: Construction engineers are responsible for hiring contractors and suppliers to work on construction projects. They evaluate bids and proposals from potential contractors and suppliers to ensure that they are qualified and capable of completing the project.
  • Monitoring construction progress and ensuring quality standards are met: Construction engineers are responsible for monitoring construction progress and ensuring that quality standards are met. They inspect construction sites regularly to ensure that work is being done according to plan and that safety standards are being followed.
  • Ensuring compliance with safety regulations and legal requirements: Construction engineers are responsible for ensuring that construction projects comply with safety regulations and legal requirements. They work closely with regulatory bodies to ensure that projects are compliant with local, state, and federal regulations.

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Challenges Faced by Construction Engineers

Despite careful planning and preparation, construction projects face a range of challenges that can derail progress and interrupt timelines. Some of the most common challenges that construction engineers face include:

  • Unforeseen design changes: Design changes can occur during the construction process, which can impact the timeline and budget for the project. Construction engineers must be able to adapt to these changes and ensure that they are implemented in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Unavailability of resources and materials: Construction projects require a wide range of resources and materials, and delays in the delivery of these items can impact the timeline for the project. Construction engineers must be able to manage these delays and ensure that the project stays on track.
  • Weather-related delays and disruptions: Weather-related delays, such as heavy rain or snow, can impact the construction process and delay the timeline for the project. Construction engineers must be able to plan for these delays and adjust the project timeline accordingly.
  • Budget overruns: Construction projects can be expensive, and it is not uncommon for projects to go over budget. Construction engineers must be able to manage costs and ensure that the project stays within budget.
  • Safety incidents and accidents: Construction sites can be dangerous places, and safety incidents and accidents can occur. Construction engineers must be able to manage these incidents and ensure that safety standards are being followed to prevent future incidents.

Overall, the role of a construction engineer is critical to the success of construction projects. They are responsible for managing resources, coordinating teams, and ensuring that projects are delivered on time and within budget. Despite the challenges that they face, construction engineers are highly skilled professionals who play an essential role in the construction industry.

Importance of Problem-Solving in Construction Engineering

Construction engineering is a challenging field that requires a unique set of skills. One of the most critical skills that construction engineers must possess is problem-solving. The ability to quickly assess a situation and come up with effective solutions can help keep projects on track and within budget. Here are some of the critical areas where problem-solving skills come in handy for construction engineers:

Navigating Complex Projects

Construction projects are often complex and involve many moving parts. From managing subcontractors to coordinating with architects and engineers, there are many different components to consider. The ability to analyze and understand the different components of a project is essential to delivering it successfully. This requires a problem-solving mindset that can break down complex issues into smaller, manageable tasks.

For example, imagine that you are working on a project that involves building a new hospital. There are many different stakeholders involved, including doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators. Each group has different needs and requirements, and it can be challenging to balance them all. A construction engineer with strong problem-solving skills can assess the situation and come up with a plan that meets everyone’s needs.

Ensuring Safety and Compliance

The construction industry is heavily regulated, with safety standards and legal requirements that must be followed. Construction engineers must stay up to date with these regulations and ensure that their projects comply with them. The ability to identify compliance issues and come up with effective solutions is an essential part of the job.

For example, imagine that you are working on a project that involves building a new high-rise building. There are many safety regulations that must be followed to ensure that the building is safe for occupants. A construction engineer with strong problem-solving skills can identify potential safety hazards and come up with solutions to mitigate them.

Managing Time and Resources

Construction projects operate under tight timelines and budgets. The ability to manage time and resources effectively is essential to delivering projects on time and within budget. Problem-solving skills can help construction engineers identify areas where resources can be optimized to achieve project objectives.

For example, imagine that you are working on a project that involves building a new bridge. The project has a tight deadline, and there are limited resources available. A construction engineer with strong problem-solving skills can identify ways to streamline the construction process and optimize the use of available resources to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.

In conclusion, problem-solving skills are essential for construction engineers. They help navigate complex projects, ensure safety and compliance, and manage time and resources effectively. By developing strong problem-solving skills, construction engineers can deliver successful projects that meet the needs of all stakeholders.

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Top Problem-Solving Techniques for Construction Engineers

Here are some of the most effective problem-solving techniques that construction engineers can use to navigate the challenges they face:

Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis is a problem-solving technique that involves identifying the underlying causes of a problem. The technique involves asking a series of “why” questions to get to the root cause of the problem. Once the root cause has been identified, construction engineers can come up with effective solutions to prevent the issue from occurring again.

Brainstorming and Mind Mapping

Brainstorming and mind mapping are creative problem-solving techniques that involve generating ideas and organizing them visually. These techniques are useful for generating ideas and solutions in a collaborative and structured environment.

The 5 Whys Technique

The 5 whys technique is a problem-solving technique that involves asking “why” questions to get to the root cause of a problem. The technique involves asking a series of five “why” questions to identify the underlying cause of the problem. Once the root cause has been identified, construction engineers can come up with effective solutions to prevent the issue from occurring again.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is a problem-solving technique that involves identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a project. This technique is useful for understanding the internal and external factors that can affect a project’s success. By identifying these factors, construction engineers can come up with effective solutions to mitigate any risks.

Decision Matrix Analysis

Decision matrix analysis is a problem-solving technique that involves weighting and ranking multiple criteria to make a decision. This technique is useful for evaluating different options and choosing the best one based on a set of pre-defined criteria.

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Implementing Technology to Aid Problem-Solving

In addition to problem-solving techniques, construction engineers can also leverage technology to aid in problem-solving. Here are some of the key technologies that can be used:

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

BIM is a digital representation of a building or infrastructure project. The technology allows for collaboration between different stakeholders, which can help identify potential issues and solutions before construction begins. BIM can be used to optimize workflows, reduce errors and waste, and improve project outcomes.

Project Management Software

Project management software is a tool that can help construction engineers manage projects more effectively. The software allows for the creation of project plans, schedules, and budgets. It also provides real-time visibility into project progress and helps teams collaborate more effectively.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies can be used to simulate construction projects in a virtual environment. This technology can help identify potential issues and visualize solutions before construction begins. The use of VR and AR can help reduce errors, improve safety, and optimize workflows.

As a construction engineer, problem-solving skills are essential to delivering successful construction projects. By understanding the different problem-solving techniques and leveraging technology, construction engineers can navigate the challenges they face and ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget.

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Teachable Moments | March 7, 2024

A prime year for nasa's pi day challenge.

By Lyle Tavernier

Collage of illustrations featured in the 2024 NASA Pi Day Challenge

Update: March 15, 2023 – The answers are here! Visit the NASA Pi Day Challenge slideshow to view the illustrated answer keys for each of the problems in the 2023 challenge.

Learn how pi is used by NASA and how many of its infinite digits have been calculated, then explore the science and engineering behind the 2024 Pi Day Challenge.

Update: March 15, 2024 – The answers to the 2024 NASA Pi Day Challenge are here! Take a peek at the illustrated answer key now available under each problem on the NASA Pi Day Challenge page.

This year marks the 11th installment of the NASA Pi Day Challenge. Celebrated on March 14, Pi Day is the annual holiday that pays tribute to the mathematical constant pi – the number that results from dividing any circle's circumference by its diameter.

Every year on March 14, Pi Day gives us a reason to enjoy our favorite sweet and savory pies and celebrate the mathematical wonder that helps NASA explore the universe. Students can join in the fun once again by using pi to explore Earth and space themselves with the NASA Pi Day Challenge .

Read on to learn more about the science behind this year's challenge and get students solving real problems faced by NASA scientists and engineers exploring Earth, the Moon, asteroids, and beyond!

  • What is Pi?

The Science Behind the 2024 NASA Pi Day Challenge

Bring the challenge into the classroom.

  • More Pi Day Resources

Infographic of all of the Pi in the Sky 11 graphics and problems

Visit the Pi in the Sky 11 lesson page to explore classroom resources and downloads for the 2024 NASA Pi Day Challenge. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech | + Expand image

Dividing any circle’s circumference by its diameter gives you an answer of pi, which is usually rounded to 3.14. Because pi is an irrational number, its decimal representation goes on forever and never repeats. In 2022, mathematician Simon Plouffe discovered the formula to calculate any single digit of pi. In the same year, teams around the world used cloud computing technology to calculate pi to 100 trillion digits. But you might be surprised to learn that for space exploration, NASA uses far fewer digits of pi .

Here at NASA, we use pi to map the Moon, measure Earth’s changing surface, receive laser-coded messages from deep space, and calculate asteroid orbits. But pi isn’t just used for exploring the cosmos. Since pi can be used to find the area or circumference of round objects and the volume or surface area of shapes like cylinders, cones, and spheres, it is useful in all sorts of ways. Transportation teams use pi when determining the size of new subway tunnels. Electricians can use pi when calculating the current or voltage passing through circuits. And you might even use pi to figure out how much fencing is needed around a circular school garden bed.

In the United States, March 14 can be written as 3.14, which is why that date was chosen for celebrating all things pi. In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution officially designating March 14 as Pi Day and encouraging teachers and students to celebrate the day with activities that teach students about pi. And that's precisely what the NASA Pi Day Challenge is all about!

This 11th installment of the NASA Pi Day Challenge includes four illustrated math problems designed to get students thinking like scientists and engineers to calculate how to get a laser message to Earth, the change in an asteroid’s orbit, the amount of data that can be collected by an Earth satellite, and how a team of mini rovers will map portions of the Moon’s surface.

Read on to learn more about the science and engineering behind each problem or click the link below to jump right into the challenge. X , Facebook , Instagram , and LinkedIn . The official answers to the 2024 challenge will be revealed on March 15.

› Take the NASA Pi Day Challenge

› Educators, get the lesson here!

Receiver Riddle

In December 2023, NASA tested a new way to communicate with distant spacecraft using technology called Deep Space Optical Communications, or DSOC. From 19,000,000 miles (30,199,000 km) away, the Psyche spacecraft beamed a high-definition video encoded in a near-infrared laser to Earth. The video, showing a cat named Taters chasing a laser, traveled at the speed of light, where it was received at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory. Because of the great distance the laser had to travel, the team needed to aim the transmission at where Earth would be when the signal arrived. In Receiver Riddle, use pi to determine where along Earth's orbit the team needed to aim the laser so that it could be received at the Observatory at the correct moment.

This animation shows how DSOC's laser signals are sent between the Psyche spacecraft and ground stations on Earth - first as a pointing reference to ensure accurate aiming of the narrow laser signal and then as a data transmission to the receiving station. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU| Watch on YouTube

Daring Deflection

In 2022, NASA crashed a spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos in an attempt to alter its orbit. The mission, known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, took place at an asteroid that posed no threat to our planet. Rather, it was an ideal target for NASA to test an important element of its planetary defense plan. DART was designed as a kinetic impactor, meaning it transferred its momentum and kinetic energy to Dimorphos upon impact, altering the asteroid's orbit. In Daring Deflection, use pi to determine the shape of Dimorphos’ orbit after DART crashed into it.

This image shows the final minutes of images leading up to the DART spacecraft's intentional collision with asteroid Dimorphos. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL | › Enlarge image

Orbit Observation

The NISAR mission is an Earth orbiting satellite designed to study our planet's changing ecosystems. It will collect data about Earth's land- and ice-covered surfaces approximately every 6 days, allowing scientists to study changes at the centimeter scale – an unprecedented level of detail. To achieve this feat, NISAR will collect massive amounts of data. In Orbit Observation, students use pi to calculate how much data the NISAR spacecraft captures during each orbit of Earth.

An illustration shows the NISAR spacecraft orbiting above Earth.

The NISAR satellite, shown in this artist’s concept, will use advanced radar imaging to provide an unprecedented view of changes to Earth’s land- and ice-covered surfaces. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. | › Full image and caption

Moon Mappers

The CADRE project aims to land a team of mini rovers on the Moon in 2025 as a test of new exploration technology. Three suitcase-size rovers, each working mostly autonomously, will communicate with each other and a base station on their lunar lander to simultaneously measure data from different locations. If successful, the project could open the door for future multi-robot exploration missions. In Moon Mappers, students explore the Moon with pi by determining how far a CADRE rover drives on the Moon’s surface.

A small rover is attached to an elevated rack while two engineers hold their hands out toward the underside of the rover.

Engineers test the system that will lower three small rovers onto the lunar surface as part of the CADRE project. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech | › Full image and caption

Celebrate Pi Day by getting students thinking like NASA scientists and engineers to solve real-world problems in the NASA Pi Day Challenge . In addition to solving the 2024 challenge, you can also dig into the 40 puzzlers from previous challenges available in our Pi Day collection . Completing the problem set and reading about other ways NASA uses pi is a great way for students to see the importance of the M in STEM.

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Educator Guides – NASA Pi Day Challenge

Here's everything you need to bring the NASA Pi Day Challenge into the classroom.

Grades 4-12

Time Varies

engineers problem solving

NASA Pi Day Challenge

The entire NASA Pi Day Challenge collection can be found in one, handy collection for students.

engineers problem solving

Can't get enough pi? Download this year's NASA Pi Day Challenge graphics, including mobile phone and desktop backgrounds:

  • Pi in the Sky 11 Poster (PDF, 4.0 MB)
  • DART Mission Background: Phone | Desktop
  • CADRE Project Background: Phone | Desktop
  • DSOC Background: Phone | Desktop
  • NISAR Mission Background: Phone | Desktop
  • 2024 Pi Day Medley Background: Phone | Desktop

More Pi Resources

engineers problem solving

How Many Decimals of Pi Do We Really Need?

While you may have memorized more than 70,000 digits of pi, world record holders, a JPL engineer explains why you really only need a tiny fraction of that for most calculations.

18 Ways NASA Uses Pi

Whether it's sending spacecraft to other planets, driving rovers on Mars, finding out what planets are made of or how deep alien oceans are, pi takes us far at NASA. Find out how pi helps us explore space.

engineers problem solving

10 Ways to Celebrate Pi Day With NASA on March 14

Find out what makes pi so special, how it’s used to explore space, and how you can join the celebration with resources from NASA.

engineers problem solving

This poster shows some of the ways NASA scientists and engineers use the mathematical constant pi (3.14) and includes common pi formulas.

18 Maneras en Que la NASA Usa Pi

Pi nos lleva lejos en la NASA. Estas son solo algunas de las formas en que pi nos ayuda a explorar el espacio.

Related Lessons for Educators

Collisions in space.

Students predict and observe what happens when two objects collide to model collisions in space.

Time 30 min to 1 hour

Moon Phases

Students learn about the phases of the moon by acting them out.

engineers problem solving

Modeling an Asteroid

Lead a discussion about asteroids and their physical properties, then have students mold their own asteroids out of clay.

engineers problem solving

Math Rocks: A Lesson in Asteroid Dynamics

Students use math to investigate a real-life asteroid impact.

Grades 8-12

engineers problem solving

Modeling Crustal Folds

Students use playdough to model how Earth’s crust is bent and folded by tectonic plates over geologic time.

Grades 6-12

engineers problem solving

Making Topographic Maps

Students draw and interpret topographic maps while learning about technology used to map Earth's surface, the seafloor, and other worlds.

Code a Radio Message for Space

Students code microcontrollers to send and receive radio signals, simulating communications between Earth and spacecraft.

Related Activities for Students

engineers problem solving

Draw Your Own Psyche Spacecraft

Follow these easy instructions to draw and decorate your own model of the Psyche spacecraft.

Type Project

Subject Engineering

engineers problem solving

What's That Space Rock?

Find out how to tell the difference between asteroids, comets, meteors, meteorites and other bodies in our solar system.

Type Slideshow

Subject Science

Facts and Figures

  • Asteroids Overview
  • Didymos In Depth
  • NISAR Mission
  • CADRE Project
  • Psyche Mission
  • DART Mission
  • Asteroid Watch
  • How NASA Studies and Tracks Asteroids Near and Far
  • NASA Cat Video Explained
  • Article for Kids: Asteroid or Meteor: What's the Difference?
  • Article for Kids: What Is an Asteroid?
  • The Video NASA’s Laser Communications Experiment Streamed From Deep Space
  • NASA's DART Mission Confirms Crashing Spacecraft into Asteroids Can Deflect Them


  • Eyes on Asteroids

TAGS: Pi Day , Pi , Math , NASA Pi Day Challenge , moon , earth , asteroid , psyche , DART , CADRE , NISAR DSOC

engineers problem solving

Lyle Tavernier , Educational Technology Specialist, NASA-JPL Education Office

Lyle Tavernier is an educational technology specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. When he’s not busy working in the areas of distance learning and instructional technology, you might find him running with his dog, cooking or planning his next trip.

Can you solve NASA's Pi Day 2024 challenge?

Hungry for Pi? Check out NASA's Pi Day challenge and put your wits to the test solving problems just like NASA scientists and engineers.

Happy Pi Day 2024!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to solve problems for NASA to help with the exploration of other planets in the solar system ? 

In celebration of Pi Day 2024 , you can do just that and take the annual NASA Pi Day Challenge . This is a fun way to put on your scientist and engineer thinking cap and try your best at a series of questions all surrounding the mathematical constant, pi. 

Related: What is the smallest known planet?

What is pi? If you recall from mathematics class back in grade school, it's approximately 3.14159 and can be used to figure out the circumference of a circle of the volume of a square. 

While there are many uses for it in different STEM jobs and fields, it's also very important for engineers and scientists at NASA to help study not just our planet but others across the solar system and even other galaxies .

This challenge is a tradition that has been on-going for the last decade put on by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Education Office and features numerous math problems you have to solve using pi. 

Some of the questions you can answer this year pertain to missions including the Deep Space Optical Communications technology on NASA's Psyche spacecraft , the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft, Earth-orbiting satellites, rovers on the Moon, and even the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope .

—  As scientists find real exoplanets, sci-fi writers change their vision of alien worlds

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— Pi Day turns 35: The circle of mathematics needs more diversity, advocates say

So, let's get solving! You can find each of the problems with an accompanying worksheet you can do all your work online and the answers will be posted by NASA so you can check your work! 

There are nearly four dozen different questions you can figure out, so try a few or do them all to "cook up" a unique way to get space-y and celebrate Pi Day 2024! 

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected].

Get the Newsletter

Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!

Meredith Garofalo

Meredith is a regional Murrow award-winning Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and science/space correspondent. She most recently was a Freelance Meteorologist for NY 1 in New York City & the 19 First Alert Weather Team in Cleveland. A self-described "Rocket Girl," Meredith's personal and professional work has drawn recognition over the last decade, including the inaugural Valparaiso University Alumni Association First Decade Achievement Award, two special reports in News 12's Climate Special "Saving Our Shores" that won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, multiple Fair Media Council Folio & Press Club of Long Island awards for meteorology & reporting, and a Long Island Business News & NYC TV Week "40 Under 40" Award.

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Solving convex uncertain PDE-constrained multi-dimensional fractional control problems via a new approach

  • Published: 16 March 2024
  • Volume 145 , article number  8 , ( 2024 )

Cite this article

  • Anurag Jayswal 1 ,
  • Ayushi Baranwal 1 &
  • Tadeusz Antczak 2  

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In this paper, the class of uncertain multi-dimensional fractional control problems with the first-order PDE constraints is investigated. The robust approach and the parametric method are applied for solving such control problems. Then, robust optimality is analyzed for the considered PDE-constrained multi-dimensional fractional control problem with uncertainty. Further, the exact absolute penalty function method is used for solving control problems created in both the aforementioned approaches. Then, under appropriate convexity hypotheses, exactness of the penalization of this exact penalty function method is investigated in the case when it is used for solving the considered control problem with uncertainty. Further, an algorithm based on the used method is presented, the main goal of which is to illustrate the precise steps to solve the unconstrained multi-dimensional non-fractional control problem with uncertainty associated with the constrained fractional control problem.

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Anurag Jayswal & Ayushi Baranwal

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Tadeusz Antczak

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Jayswal, A., Baranwal, A. & Antczak, T. Solving convex uncertain PDE-constrained multi-dimensional fractional control problems via a new approach. J Eng Math 145 , 8 (2024).

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Received : 04 December 2023

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  • Exact absolute penalty function method
  • Parametric method
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  • Robust optimization
  • Uncertainty modeling

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engineers problem solving

Scientists solve key problem in solid-state batteries

A new research in battery technology now promises safer, longer-lasting energy storage. Thanks to a research team tackling a critical issue with solid-state batteries . The researchers have now developed a “bottom electrodeposition” method that changes the game for these next-generation power sources.

Search for safer, more powerful batteries

Today’s batteries say the ones in our smartphones or electric cars, mostly use liquid electrolytes for shuttling energy. However, these liquids are flammable, which obviously factors into safety concerns, even though they are minimal in today’s modern processes. 

However, a new form of energy storage tech is becoming prominent. Enter the Solid-state batteries. These promise to be less hazardous because they use a solid electrolyte material instead. That, combined with their possibility of holding a larger energy density, is driving intense research in this field.

Precision lithium placement

Regarding cons, the key challenge with solid-state batteries has been how lithium, a key component, gets deposited during charging and discharging. Random deposition patterns can deplete the lithium , ultimately depleting the battery’s overall performance and lifespan.

With the help of POSCO N.EX.T Hub, this research team created a super-thin protection layer for the battery’s anode that guides the lithium. With their special binder material, the lithium neatly builds up from the bottom of the anode, like a well-organized stack. This breakthrough, verified using advanced imaging techniques with a scanning electron microscope (SEM), solves the uneven deposition problem. Their researchers have published their work in the journal Small .

Real-world results

The researchers tested their batteries. As per the report, the test batteries performed impressively even with ultra-thin lithium layers, promising longevity unseen in previous solid-state designs.  

All-solid-state batteries developed by the researchers also showed stable electrochemical performance over extended periods, even with lithium metal as thin as 10 micrometers (μm) or less.

“We have devised an enduring all-solid-state battery system through a novel electrodeposition strategy,” says Professor Soojin Park, who led the research. He added, “With further research, we aim to provide more effective ways to enhance battery life and increase energy density.”

The researchers’ work has real-world implications – POSCO Holdings wants to move this technology toward commercialization, unlocking the potential of these superior batteries for consumer and industrial use.

Scientists solve key problem in solid-state batteries

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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.

engineers 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.

engineers 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.

Festive offer

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.

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