Learning to Think Like an Engineer

Teaching students of all ages to think like an engineer.This past week was the Discover E “Engineers Week” in which professionals, academia and students come together to celebrate engineers transforming our world along with the entire engineering profession. Engineering is an exciting profession full of problem solvers, however in school settings engineering may not grab student’s attention right away. Discover E aims to show the innovative, creative and inspiring side of engineering with the goal of introducing students around the world to it.

We have been following Engineers Week for years now and a resounding theme each year is based on the simple question, How can we get more students, and in particular girls, to pursue an engineering degree? Below we are sharing a few ideas on how you can introduce engineering to your child/student, whether at home or in a school setting.

Design Thinking

At the very core, engineering is about solving problems. Design thinking gives students the framework to confidently solve problems. This method of approaching a problem engages students by allowing them to use their inherent creativity to solve a real-world problem coupled with hands-on activities (prototyping and testing). Design Thinking can be broken up into five stages:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

This methodology engages students and shows them how to reframe a problem into actionable items that can be accomplished. Brainstorming and prototyping are two areas where kids especially excel because they don’t have pre-conceived notions that can impede the creative process. If you want to learn more about Design Thinking for kids along with implementation here are a few excellent resources: Stanford, Idea Co and Interaction Design Foundation.


Often students hesitate when it comes to following their interest in engineering because they have never actually met an engineer. It seems simple but meeting a real-world engineer to whom they can ask questions and talk about the profession is all some kids need to turn an interest into a passion. They need to see that an engineering is attainable to everyone. If you have a young student interested in engineering ask your family, friends and network if they know an engineer you could connect with.

*Discover E has a volunteer program where you can sign up to be a virtual engineering role model to students.

Value Creativity

Creativity and imagination are hard to use the older we get. As we grow we slowly trade in our wild imaginations for facts, figures and concrete evidence. Kids love to build and use their imaginations, by valuing these activities we help foster their unbiased way of thinking. Valuing creativity can be done at home and at school, when students feel that their ideas and opinions are valued, they gain confidence to “flex” this muscle further.

Real World Example: Cassidy Crowley, Inventor of The Baby Toon

We had the opportunity to work with Cassidy Crowley, inventor of The Baby Toon. The Crowley family came to us with the idea for The Baby Toon. Their daughter, Cassidy (age 7), had come up with the idea and the design for the Honolulu District Science and Engineering Fair.

From Cassidy: “I was instructed to identify a problem. When I went home, I noticed that my mom always got scared when my baby sister put the back of a long, hard, plastic spoon in her mouth. I didn’t want anything to happen to her and I didn’t like seeing my mom so worried, so I came up with… The Baby Toon!”

We worked with the Crowley family on finding the optimal design for The Baby Toon, we used 3D printing to test prototypes and worked with their manufacturing partner on the molding. The Baby Toon also holds a patent, in which we were able to assist as well. Since working with them, Cassidy has gone on to secure a deal on Shark Tank and license her Baby Toon invention to Munchkin.

Kids of any age can make an impact on the world and they don’t need a formal degree in engineering to get started.


3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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April 2024

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