Look at the colorful kites in this picture. Did you ever fly a kite? Do you think you could make one? What shape would you make it? What materials would you use? How would you design it?
Constraints on Design
The development of new technology—whether it’s a simple kite or a complex machine—is called technological design. The technological design process is a step-by-step approach to finding a solution to a problem. Often, the main challenge in technological design is finding a solution that works within the constraints, or limits, on the design. All technological designs have constraints.
Q: Assume you want to design a kite. What might be some constraints on your design?
A: Possible constraints might include the shape and size of the kite and the materials you use to make it.
Physical and Social Constraints
Technological design constraints may be physical or social.
- Physical design constraints include factors such as natural laws and properties of materials. A kite, for example, will fly only if its shape allows air currents to lift it. Otherwise, gravity will keep it on the ground.
- Social design constraints include factors such as ease of use, safety, attractiveness, and cost. For example, a kite string should be easy to unwind as the wind carries the kite higher.
Weighing the Options
All technological designs have trade-offs because no design is perfect. For example, a design might be very good at solving a problem, but it might be too expensive to be practical. Or a design might be very attractive, but it might not be safe to use. Choosing the best design often involves weighing the pros and cons of different options and deciding which ones are most important.
Q: What trade-offs might there be on the design of a kite?
A: You might want to make a big kite, but if it’s too big it might be too heavy. Then it would fly only on very windy days. Or you might want to make a kite using a certain material that you really like, but the material might cost more than you can afford to spend.
- All technological designs have constraints, or limits, on the design.
- Physical design constraints include factors such as natural laws and properties of materials. Social design constraints include factors such as ease of use, safety, attractiveness, and cost.
- All technological designs have trade-offs because no design is perfect. Choosing the best design involves weighing the pros and cons of different options.
Watch this video showing how to make a kite with a traditional design. Then answer the questions below.
- What are some constraints on the framework of this kite design?
- What are some constraints on the body of this kite design?
- What are technological design constraints?
- Give examples of physical and social design constraints.
- Why do all technological designs have trade-offs? What is an example?