Problem solving is one of the main activities in achieving design and research goal. While problem solving in general is an activity aiming at transforming unacceptable state of reality to acceptable state of reality, problem solving in engineering is usually a means for tackling other activities such as design and research. By breaking down design and research into a set of engineering problem solving activities, the goals of complicated design and research projects can be achieved. For this reason, the transitions from design or research to problem solving in some cases are unidentifiable. The identification of the problem solving activity goals and the transition between the three activities, however, are essentials for creativity and achieving the desired objectives especially when dealing with conflicting objectives and constraints.
In this paper, design, research, and problem solving are distinguished as realization activities performed in different reality domains with different beginning and ending states. These three activities use modeling and simulation as basic elements of mapping between realities to perform analysis and integration. While analysis and simulation are mainly the analytical actions, modeling and integration are mainly the creative actions. With these distinctions, the identification of problem solving activity goals, and transitions between activities, can be easily realized. Also, creativity and dealing with conflicting objectives can be greatly facilitated. To demonstrate these concepts and their implications some illustrative examples are discussed.