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Engineering drawings are technical drawings that define the specifications for a product, component, or project.

There’s an art to engineering. Literally.

Many people think engineers focus only on physics and mathematical equations, but one of the earliest stages in the engineering cycle requires drawing. Admittedly, it’s not the Mona Lisa, however, it is a vital step and requires engineers to flex their creative muscles.

For new engineers, in particular, engineering drawing can seem like a difficult task. Fortunately, nowadays there are many digital tools that make engineering drawing straightforward. So whether your students are mini Picassos or not, they have plenty of opportunities to learn the basics of engineering drawing

Here’s a rundown of the fundamentals and some exercises to help students generate product masterpieces. 

What is Engineering Drawing?

Engineering drawings are technical drawings that define the specifications for a product, component, or project. These types of drawings should accurately convey the geometric qualities of the product, enabling the manufacturer to create it correctly. Additionally, the drawing can include information about how to design the product and mention other ideas or reference an existing product.

Unlike an illustration, engineering drawings should detail the shape and size of the product, alongside features like load limits, materials, and possible product variations. The drawing should also showcase the product from multiple angles and in 3D projections.

In the digital age, the majority of engineering drawings are done on computers, using specialized software that can instruct machines about the manufacturing process. Known as CAD (Computer-aided design), this software is used by both engineers and designers to improve the quality of design, optimize workflows, and streamline communication when launching a product.

Engineering drawing and engineering drawing tools are used in a variety of professions. These include architects, city planners, graphic designers, animators, product designers, game designers, and more.

The Importance of Engineering Drawing

Engineering drawings are essentially a blueprint for a product. They contain all the information to successfully build the product (e.g. voltage, paint, wire length), meaning that the process is streamlined and more products can be created in sustainable and cost-efficient ways. For manufacturers and other stakeholders, engineering drawings provide a complete overview of the product and therefore remove any questions or doubts that could potentially slow operations.

Engineering drawings help reduce the number of delays in production because people can consult the drawing rather than wait for responses from colleagues. In this way, drawings are a vital part of communication in product development.

From a financial standpoint, because engineering drawings ensure that production runs smoothly, they can lower costs too. Stopping and starting production to consult with engineers is expensive. Not to mention, having a comprehensive engineering drawing correlates to higher quality products, lowering the possibility of high costs that come with recalling and iterating products that don’t meet users’ expectations.

In terms of your classroom, engineering drawing is important because it gives students insight into the connection between science and art. For most students, those types of subjects are mutually exclusive, and if you excel at one you cannot be good at the other. By introducing topics like engineering design into the classroom, students learn that this is not the case and they shouldn’t feel limited in their future career pursuits. 

Teaching Engineering Drawing

At its core, engineering is about applying mathematical and scientific knowledge to design. Teaching students how to effectively make engineering drawings is essential to connecting art and STEM subjects as well as future career success.

Engineering Design Activities

Engineer design challenges are a powerful and fun way to nurture engineering drawing skills. Ask students to produce clear, detailed design drawings for a new product (for example, a wind-powered car) but give them only a limited number of construction materials. Once finished, students have to share their designs and attempt to build them based on one another’s drawings. The finished products will indicate how in-depth the original engineering drawings were.

Another good exercise is to use lLego pieces to create a small shape with protruding parts. Then ask students to draw the object from multiple different perspectives. Known as “orthogonal projections” this task will help students develop the ability to represent 3D objects in 2D forms. 

Alternatively, write a small description of a new product, giving precise details about what it looks like and how it should function. Next, request that students make designs for the imaginary product in CAD software like AutoCAD, Maya, or SketchUp. Be sure to encourage students to explain why they think their design conveys what you’d previously written and push them to address any areas that don’t fit the brief.

Engineering design drawings aren’t just applicable to STEM subjects, they can help students throughout their lives to problem solve and make logical decisions. Explore Sphero’s education kits and coding resources to enhance students’ engineering drawing skills and empower more people to design great futures.
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