Step 1 – Define the Problem

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The Design Process

Step 1 – Define the Problem

In the most general sense, engineering design is simply a form of problem-solving. Before you can effectively solve any problem, you must fully define and understand it.

In the West Point Bridge Designer, the problem is to design a truss bridge to carry a two-lane highway across a river. To fully define the problem, you must:

  1. select a design project, and

  2. read and understand the design specifications.

The West Point Bridge Designer offers seven different design projects for you to work on. Each project consists of a unique combination of span length, support conditions, and height restrictions. Except for these unique characteristics, all seven projects are based on the same set of design specifications.

What is a Truss?

A truss is an arrangement of structural members that are connected together to form a rigid framework. In most trusses, members are arranged in interconnected triangles, as shown in the example below:

As a result of this configuration, truss members carry load primarily in axial tension and compression. Because they are very rigid and they carry load efficiently, trusses are able to span large distances with a minimum of material.

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