I have been teaching GCSE Design Technology again.

Therefore I thought it would be useful to go through the syllabus specification, relating to student knowledge.

The following is based on the AQA GCSE Syllabus, and is for information only.

Core Technical Principles

‘In order to make effective design choices students will need a breadth of core technical knowledge and understanding that consists of’…. AQA

New and emerging technologies

According to the exam board AQA, for GCSE Design Technology, ‘Students must know and understand the impact of new and emerging technologies on contemporary and potential future scenarios, in the following areas:’


The impact of new and emerging technologies on:

  • the design and organisation of the workplace including automation and the use of robotics
  • buildings and the place of work
  • tools and equipment.


Enterprise based on the development of an effective business innovation:

  • crowd funding
  • virtual marketing and retail
  • co-operatives
  • fair trade.


The impact of resource consumption on the planet:

  • finite
  • non–finite
  • disposal of waste.


How technology push/market pull affects choice.

Changing job roles due to the emergence of new ways of working driven by technological change.


Changes in fashion and trends in relation to new and emergent technologies.

Respecting people of different faiths and beliefs.


How products are designed and made to avoid having a negative impact on others:

  • design for disabled
  • elderly
  • different religious groups.


Positive and negative impacts new products have on the environment:

  • continuous improvement
  • efficient working
  • pollution
  • global warming.

Production techniques and systems

The contemporary and potential future use of:

  • automation
  • computer aided design (CAD)
  • computer aided manufacture (CAM)
  • flexible manufacturing systems (FMS)
  • just in time (JIT)
  • lean manufacturing.

How the critical evaluation of new and emerging technologies informs design decisions.

That it is important to consider scenarios from different perspectives and considering:

  • planned obsolescence
  • design for maintenance
  • ethics
  • the environment.

New and emerging technologies are inventions or innovations that are recently developed or still being developed.

These technologies have the potential to change the way we live, work and communicate.

Some examples of new and emerging technologies include:

  1. Augmented Reality (AR). AR is a technology that superimposes digital information over the real world, enhancing the user’s experience. For example, imagine using a mobile app to see digital images overlaid on the real world around you.
  2. Virtual Reality (VR). VR is a technology that creates a simulated environment that the user can interact with. For example, imagine wearing a headset that transports you to a different world or place.
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is a technology that allows machines to learn and make decisions on their own. For example, self-driving cars use AI to navigate the road and make decisions.
  4. 3D Printing. 3D printing is a technology that allows objects to be printed in three dimensions using a digital design. For example, imagine printing a toy or a piece of jewellery from your computer.
  5. Blockchain: Blockchain is a technology that creates a secure, decentralized record of transactions. For example, imagine using a blockchain to securely transfer money or buy and sell goods online.

These technologies are still evolving and have the potential to change our lives in many ways. As a young person, you have the opportunity to learn about and experiment with these technologies, which may inspire you to become an innovator or entrepreneur in the future.

Energy generation and storage

Students should understand how energy is generated and stored and how this is used as the basis for the selection of products and power systems.…AQA.

Fossil Fuels

How power is generated from:

  • coal
  • gas
  • oil.

Arguments for and against the selection of fossil fuels.

Nuclear Power

How nuclear power is generated.

Arguments for and against the selection of nuclear power.

Renewable Energy

How power is generated from:

  • wind
  • solar
  • tidal
  • hydro-electrical
  • biomass.

Energy storage systems including batteries

Kinetic pumped storage systems.

Alkaline and re-chargeable batteries.

Arguments for and against the selection of renewable energy.

Energy generation refers to the process of producing energy from a source, such as sunlight, wind, water, or fossil fuels. Energy storage, on the other hand, refers to the process of storing energy for later use.

There are many different methods of energy generation, but some common ones include:

  1. Fossil fuels: Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are burned to generate electricity. However, they are non-renewable resources and can have negative impacts on the environment.
  2. Renewable energy sources: Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro power are becoming increasingly popular as they are clean and sustainable. For example, solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, while wind turbines convert wind energy into electricity.
  3. Nuclear power: Nuclear power plants generate electricity by using nuclear reactions to heat water and produce steam, which then drives a turbine to produce electricity.

Energy storage is important because it allows us to use energy when it is needed, rather than when it is being generated. Some common methods of energy storage include:

  1. Batteries: Batteries can store energy in chemical form and can be used to power devices or provide backup power.
  2. Flywheels: Flywheels store energy by spinning a rotor at high speeds and can be used to provide backup power.
  3. Hydrogen: Hydrogen can be stored in tanks and used to power fuel cells, which generate electricity.

Understanding energy generation and storage is important as we work towards developing a sustainable energy future. By using renewable energy sources and developing new and innovative methods of energy storage, we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and create a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Developments in new materials

Modern materials

Developments made through the invention of new or improved processes eg Graphene, Metal foams and Titanium.

Alterations to perform a particular function eg Coated metals, Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) and Nanomaterials.

Smart Materials

That materials can have one or more properties that can be significantly changed in a controlled fashion by external stimuli, such as stress, temperature, moisture, or PH eg shape memory alloys, thermochromic pigments and photochromic pigments

Composite Materials

That composite materials are produced by combining two or more different materials to create an enhanced material eg glass reinforced plastic (GRP) and carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CRP).

Technical Textiles – for GCSE Design Technology

How fibres can be spun to make enhanced fabrics eg conductive fabrics, fire resistant fabrics, kevlar and microfibres incorporating micro encapsulation.

Systems approach to designing


The use of light sensors, temperature sensors, pressure sensors and switches.


The use of programming microcontrollers as counters, timers and for decision making, to provide functionality to products and processes.


The use of buzzers, speakers and lamps, to provide functionality to products and processes.

Mechanical devices – Different types of movement

The functions of mechanical devices to produce linear, rotary, reciprocating and oscillating movements.

Changing magnitude and direction of force


  • first order
  • second order
  • third order


  • bell cranks
  • push/pull.

Rotary systems:

  • CAMs and followers
  • simple gear trains
  • pulleys and belts.

Materials and their working properties

Material categories.

Paper and boards

Students should have an overview of the main categories and types of papers and boards:

papers including:

  • bleed proof
  • cartridge paper
  • grid
  • layout paper
  • tracing paper

boards including:

  • corrugated card
  • duplex board
  • foil lined board
  • foam core board
  • ink jet card
  • solid white board

Natural and manufactured timbers

Students should have an overview of the main categories and types of natural and manufactured timbers:

hardwoods including:

  • ash
  • beech
  • mahogany
  • oak
  • balsa

softwoods including:

  • larch
  • pine
  • spruce

manufactured boards including:

  • medium density fibreboard (MDF)
  • plywood
  • chipboard.

Metals and alloys

Students should have an overview of the main categories and types of metals and alloys:

ferrous metals including:

  • low carbon steel
  • cast Iron
  • high carbon/tool steel

non ferrous metals including:

  • aluminum
  • copper
  • tin
  • zinc

alloys including:

  • brass
  • stainless steel
  • high speed steel.


Students should have an overview of the main categories and types of polymers:

thermoforming including:

  • acrylic (PMMA)
  • high impact polystyrene (HIPS
  • high density polythene (HDPE)
  • polypropylene (PP)
  • polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

thermosetting including:

  • epoxy resin (ER)
  • melamine-formaldehyde (MF)
  • phenol formaldehyde (PF)
  • polyester resin (PR)
  • urea–formaldehyde (UF).


Students should have an overview of the main categories and types of textiles:

  • natural fibres, including cotton, wool and silk
  • synthetic fibres, including polyester, polyamide (nylon) and elastane (lycra)
  • blended and mixed fibres, including cotton/polyester
  • woven, including plain weave
  • non-woven, including bonded fabrics and felted fabrics
  • knitted textiles including knitted fabrics.

Material Properties

In relation to the main categories outlined above (not the specific materials identified), students should know and understand physical properties such as:

  • absorbency (resistance to moisture)
  • density
  • fusibility
  • electrical and thermal conductivity.

In relation to the main categories outlined above (not the specific materials identified), students should know and understand working properties such as:

  • strength
  • hardness
  • toughness
  • malleability
  • ductility and elasticity.

New materials are constantly being developed and used in many industries, from construction to electronics, medicine to aerospace.

These materials have unique properties that make them useful for specific applications, and often have advantages over traditional materials like metal, wood or plastics.

Here are some key developments in new materials that GCSE students may be interested in:

Carbon fibre: Carbon fibre is a lightweight and strong material made from thin strands of carbon.

It is used in industries like aerospace, sports equipment, and automotive manufacturing. It is highly valued for its high strength-to-weight ratio, resistance to corrosion, and its ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Carbon fibre is often used in making aircraft components, bicycle frames, and high-performance car parts.

Graphene: Graphene is a two-dimensional material made up of a single layer of carbon atoms.

It is incredibly strong, light and flexible, and has excellent electrical and thermal conductivity.

It has potential applications in electronics, batteries, energy storage, and even biomedical implants.

Graphene’s unique properties make it one of the most promising materials for the future.

Bioplastics: Bioplastics are plastics made from renewable resources like corn starch, sugarcane, or potato starch.

They can be used in a range of products, including food packaging, cutlery, and shopping bags.

Bioplastics are an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional plastics, which are made from non-renewable fossil fuels and can take hundreds of years to degrade.

Smart materials: Smart materials are materials that can change their properties in response to external stimuli, like heat, light, or electricity.

They have a wide range of applications in fields like medicine, aerospace, and robotics.

For example, shape-memory alloys can return to their original shape after being deformed, while electrochromic materials can change colour in response to an electric field.

Aerogels: Aerogels are a type of material that is extremely lightweight and has very low density.

They are often used as insulation in buildings, as they can be more effective than traditional insulation materials.

Aerogels are also used in aerospace applications, as they can be used to reduce the weight of spacecraft components.

These are just a few examples of the many new materials that are being developed and used today. As technology advances and scientists discover new materials, there will no doubt be many more exciting developments in the field of materials science.

Systems approach to designing

The systems approach to designing is a way of creating products or systems that takes into account all the different parts of a system and how they interact with each other. It involves looking at the entire system as a whole, rather than just focusing on individual parts.

The systems approach can be broken down into four key steps:

Define the problem: The first step is to clearly define the problem or need that the product or system is intended to address. This involves considering the needs of the user, the constraints of the environment in which it will be used, and any other relevant factors.

Design the system: Once the problem has been defined, the next step is to design the system. This involves identifying all the different parts of the system and how they will work together to meet the needs of the user. This may involve brainstorming ideas, creating sketches or models, and testing different options.

Implement the system: Once the system has been designed, the next step is to implement it. This involves building the product or system, testing it to ensure it works as intended, and making any necessary adjustments.

Evaluate the system: The final step is to evaluate the system to ensure it is meeting the needs of the user and functioning as intended. This may involve gathering feedback from users, monitoring performance, and making any necessary improvements.

The systems approach is important because it ensures that all aspects of a system are considered and integrated, leading to a more effective and efficient product or system. By looking at the entire system as a whole, designers can identify potential issues before they arise and make adjustments to improve the overall performance of the system.

In summary, the systems approach to designing involves looking at the entire system as a whole, considering all the different parts and how they interact with each other, and making adjustments to ensure that the system is functioning effectively and efficiently.

Mechanical Devices

Mechanical devices are machines that are designed to perform a specific task or function using mechanical energy. They are used in many different industries, from manufacturing to transportation, and can range in complexity from simple machines like levers and pulleys, to more complex machines like engines and robots.

Mechanical devices work by transforming energy from one form to another, usually from electrical or chemical energy into mechanical energy. This energy is then used to power the movement of the device, which in turn performs a specific task.

Some examples of mechanical devices include:

Levers: Levers are simple machines that consist of a rigid bar or rod that is free to pivot or rotate around a fixed point. They are used to amplify or reduce the amount of force needed to perform a task, such as lifting heavy objects.

Pulleys: Pulleys are machines that use a grooved wheel and a rope or cable to lift or move heavy objects. They work by distributing the weight of the load across multiple pulleys, which reduces the amount of force needed to lift the load.

Engines: Engines are machines that convert fuel into mechanical energy to power a vehicle or machine. There are many different types of engines, including gasoline engines, diesel engines, and electric motors.

Robots: Robots are complex machines that are designed to perform tasks automatically, using sensors, actuators, and other components to interact with their environment. They are used in many different industries, from manufacturing to healthcare.

Mechanical devices are important because they allow us to perform tasks that would be too difficult or impossible to do by hand. They make our lives easier and more efficient, and allow us to accomplish things that were once thought impossible. By understanding how mechanical devices work and how they are used, we can appreciate the role they play in our daily lives and in the world around us.

Materials and their working properties

Materials are substances that are used to create a wide range of products, from buildings and bridges to electronics and clothing. Different materials have different working properties, which are characteristics that determine how the material can be used and what it can be used for. Here are some common materials and their working properties:

  1. Metals: Metals are strong, durable, and have high melting points, making them suitable for use in structures and machines that require strength and stability. They are also good conductors of heat and electricity, making them ideal for use in electronics.
  2. Plastics: Plastics are lightweight, flexible, and can be molded into different shapes and sizes, making them suitable for use in a wide range of products, from toys and packaging to automotive parts and medical devices. They are also resistant to corrosion and chemicals.
  3. Ceramics: Ceramics are hard, brittle materials that are often used in applications that require high levels of heat resistance and electrical insulation, such as in the construction of engine components and electrical insulators.
  4. Composites: Composites are materials made from two or more different materials that are combined to create a new material with unique properties. For example, carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) are lightweight, strong materials used in aerospace, automotive, and sporting goods industries.
  5. Wood: Wood is a natural material that is used in construction, furniture, and paper products. It is strong, flexible, and has a relatively low density, making it a popular choice for many different applications.

The working properties of materials are important because they determine how the material can be used and what it can be used for. By understanding the working properties of different materials, designers and engineers can choose the most appropriate material for a specific application, ensuring that the finished product is safe, effective, and functional.

This GCSE Design Technology blog post will be continued….

Next: Specialist Technical Principles.

Published by Craig Miles

Craig Miles

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