Models of the Engineering Design Process

The NASA’s BEST Engineering Design Model serves as a foundation for all BEST activities. BEST Activity Guides were designed to teach students the engineering design process (EDP) as an iterative process that engineers use to guide them in problem solving. NASA Engineers ask questions, imagine solutions, plan designs, create and test models, and then make improvements. These steps all contribute to mission success.

There are multiple models of the engineering design process.  Each model represents an effort to capture the process of creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and communication necessary to successfully design a solution.  Each model highlights different elements of the process.


Model 1

Model 1: The original BEST model was developed by the Museum of Science, Boston, to teach engineering to students in elementary school. Their model of the engineering design process defined five steps; BEST added the experiment step to emphasize the importance of evaluating the model to identify areas of needed improvement.  This model represents the engineering design process as a cycle, with no explicit starting or end point.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Model 2

Model 2: With only three steps, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is the most general model of engineering design and identifies three phases that encompass all the ideas in more complex models.


Model 3

Model 3: The new BEST model was revised to address the following:

  • The new model is simple enough to be appropriate for use across K-12 formal and informal settings.
  • The new model is both iterative and directional, demonstrating intention to find an approach to solve a problem.
  • The new model employs a short word of identification (ASK, IMAGINE) for each step plus visual representation (color and icon) that prompts student recall and provides non-linguistic representations for English language learners.
  • The new model incorporates a new step “SHARE” to report communications of the process, in alignment with current NASA and other models of engineering design.

The new model reframes the “experiment” step to “TEST” so as to be more in alignment with current NASA and other models of engineering design.

Questions to ponder:

  • How does the BEST new model (model 3) of the engineering design process compare with what you have used previously?
  • What strategies might you use to help your future students understand the engineering design process?

To learn more about the NASA BEST Activity guides go to

Barbie Buckner
Educator Professional Development Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
Armstrong Flight Research Center