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CAREER: A Study of How Engineering Students Approach Innovation

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.259.1 - 24.259.6

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Paper Authors


Senay Purzer Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Şenay Purzer an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. In 2011, she received a NSF CAREER award, which examines how engineering students approach innovation. She is also a NAE/CASEE New Faculty Fellow. Purzer conducts research on aspects of design education such as innovation and information literacy.

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Nicholas D. Fila Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Nicholas D. Fila is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, West Lafayette. His research interests include how engineering students approach, learn, and internalize design, especially in teams. He has co-authored a book chapter on teamwork and innovation, and has authored conference and journal papers on design, innovation, collaboration, and engineering laboratories.

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Paul D. Mathis Purdue University

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Paul Mathis is a PhD student in the school of Engineering Education and a council member for ASEE student chapter at Purdue University. He has a bachelors degree in Physical Science and a Masters in Education Curriculum. His areas of interest are design, innovation, creativity and improving skills of future engineers.

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CAREER: A Study of How Engineering Students Approach InnovationDespite the importance of innovativeness as a necessary skill for engineers, research on howengineering students approach innovation and ways to measure these processes and their outcomes islimited. In this CAREER project we conducted a series of synthesis studies as well as empirical studieswhere we used interviews and think-aloud protocols to examine engineering students’ innovationskills, views of innovation process, and experiences that support their development of innovatively. Inthis poster, we present results from three studies(1) Meta-synthesis of Assessments in Engineering Entrepreneurship Education: Quality assessments, when used properly, can help with student learning and program improvement. In a meta-synthesis study we evaluated the current state of assessment in engineering entrepreneurship education. Our analysis resulted in more than forty assessment instruments on entrepreneurship in engineering. The majority of the assessment instruments were used to evaluate project deliverables although these instruments often lacked details about specific competencies that are critical for formative feedback. Self-report surveys were also popular; however, often they were used with limited evidence on validity. Based on these findings we recommend that (a) rubrics used to evaluate project deliverables should include levels of competencies in engineering entrepreneurship; and (b) a system of assessment instruments should be developed to evaluate aspects of engineering entrepreneurship.(2) Analyzing Innovative Behaviors through a Content Analysis of Case Studies Published in Bestseller Innovation Books: We reviewed more than 100 bestseller books on innovation and identified three that included a large number of case studies with sufficient detail. The cases in three books (The Innovators DNA, The Ten Faces of Innovation, and The Medici Effect) were done analyzed for five skills identified in The Innovators DNA: observation, questioning, experimenting, networking, and association. The majority of innovation cases begin with observation and ended with experimenting. Among the five skills observation and questioning were the most critical and central to innovation.(3) Engineering Seniors’ Conflict Between Technical and Creative Identity: While much research has focused on student creativity and innovation skills, understanding students’ perceptions of innovation and the learning experiences that shape these perceptions can help explain the supporters and hindrances influencing their innovativeness. We conducted a qualitative study involving nine seniors in various engineering disciplines. These students participated in think- aloud protocols and semi-structured interviews. We found that students’ engineering identity as a technical problem solver contradicted with their creative identity. This manifested in their perceptions of themselves as being non-creative. They avoided creative solutions that are not immediately feasible due to fear of failure. They also tended to outsource creative tasks to those who are not engineers.In light of these three studies, we argue that assessment and instruction in innovation education shouldemphasize three skills: observation, questioning, and creativity. Efforts should be made to reinforcethese skills as aspects of engineering identity. Our future research will focus on identifying to whatlevel engineering students exhibit skills found in innovators as well as comparisons between groups offirst-year and senior-level engineering students. Gender and cultural differences will also be analyzed.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015