What is the Secret to Invent? Decompose the Functions!


“Well,” Aaron said, “I think this looks pretty great. Thanks Ray.   What made you think of all this anyway?”

“Oh,” Ray looked over at Wesley who remained silent. “I was working on my motorcycle Saturday and I got to thinking about it’s different parts, and I started thinking about the functions each part or assembly performs. Like, the brake handles, cables, and calipers perform the stopping function, the motor and throttle perform the acceleration function, the wheels, bearings and tires perform the rolling and steering function, the bike frame…”

“We get the idea,” Aaron said.

“Anyway,” Ray continued, “When designing something new, you just reverse the process by determining the functions that are needed, and then you can figure out what parts you need to accomplish those functions. I did it for the AutoBlaster by starting with the sequence, then figuring out the functions needed for that sequence.”

“I’m gonna start doing more of that kind of thinking when I look at things.” Aaron said.

“Don’t do it at the dinner table,” Kate said. “Your wife might not be interested in what function the tables and chairs perform.”

(Excerpt from, “Cutting Edge,” a complete Engineering Story about invention and product development. Read the story at, https://engineerstories.com/2012/08/18/cutting-edge-chapter-6-decompose-the-functions/)

While working with my Capstone team today, we spoke of functional decomposition, and I remembered this story. (Ken Hardman)

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