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Engineering: The nature of problems
Engineering: The nature of problems

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4 Looking for solutions

4.1 Advancing knowledge

Over the centuries, engineers have faced and solved a huge number of problems of one sort or another. Each time a problem is solved, knowledge is advanced, something usually gets written down, and so today we have a wealth of experience to draw on. Equally, problem-solving techniques have also been developed and evolved through use and refinement, which is rather handy. Not only do we have some idea of existing solutions to similar problems, but we also have an indication of how to go about finding our own solutions.

As we're trying to get a picture of the whole, let's begin by looking at a typical, simple, problem-solution process and then we can break it down into separate elements. Figure 7 is one attempt to map out such a process, from the top down.

Figure 7
Figure 7 A 'map' or process for solving some problems

I should add, however, that there is no single right way to do this and there are, inevitably, all sorts of diagrams available to illustrate the process of creating solutions to problems. Engineering is a huge field, and procedures are usually shown with a bit more detail than in Figure 7 because they are specific to, say, software design, mechanical, chemical, civil engineering, etc.