By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.


Prototyping is defined as an experimental process where design teams implement ideas into tangible forms from paper and digital.   Teams build prototypes of varying degrees of finality to capture design concepts and test on users. With prototypes, you can refine and validate your designs so your brand can release the right products.

Most working in the technology world will eventually interact with prototypes at some point in their career.  This can be hardware or software and can be in varying degrees of production.  Since all products have to start somewhere prototyping is a key discipline.

The position one would hold in this field is called a Prototype Engineer.  ZipRecruiter provides the details:

“A prototype engineer is part of a product development team that designs prototypes for new kinds of industrial products. Many companies employ design engineers to perform numerous technical duties, such as drawing up schematics and blueprints, overseeing the production of prototypes, and testing those prototypes to decide whether they should enter mass production. The career requires significant educational qualifications and a variety of skills and experience. You should have an engineering degree in the field you wish to enter, strong analytical problem-solving, and the ability to work as part of a large team.

The qualifications you need to become a prototype engineer include a degree and design skills. Degree requirements vary depending on the industry in which you work. Most employers expect at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as electrical, mechanical, or industrial engineering. If your responsibilities include project planning and testing, you usually need a master’s degree or several years of job experience. Entry-level prototype engineers typically work as junior members of a design and testing team. In some positions, your duties involve using computer modeling software to test prototype designs in a virtual environment.”

While the actual tasks will vary depending on what is being prototyped the discipline remains similar.  And there is a huge need to fill these types of positions.  A quick search shows 352 Prototype Engineer jobs available within twenty-five miles of our home radio station.  The average salary for this position is around $76k/year or $37/hour.  Some positions are advertising as much as $133,000/year.

As with almost all occupations technology has changed the field of prototyping.  With 3D printers and digital rendering technology a lot can be done faster than ever.  A good portion of this position, though, is still old-fashioned trial and error.  And a certain amount of creative thinking.

So next time you use that electronic device, that mounting clip for your phone in your car, or running your favorite video game, remember the behind the scenes people who have created all this and toast your prototype engineer.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.

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Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw