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Changing Creativity through Engineering Education and Bio-Inspired Design

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.342.1 - 26.342.12



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Paper Authors

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Fabien R Durand Georgia Institute of Technology

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Jin Woo Kim Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dorian Henao


Joanna Tsenn Texas A&M University

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Joanna Tsenn is a Ph.D. student studying Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, with an anticipated graduation date of August 2015. She received her B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010. Her research interests include bioinspired design and engineering design methodology. Her dissertation topic relates to the development of a text mining tool to automatically identify biological materials’ structure-property relationships, which can aid in the design of bioinspired materials.

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Daniel A. McAdams Texas A&M University

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Julie S Linsey Georgia Institute of Technology

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Michael Helms Georgia Institue of Technology

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Changing Creativity through Engineering Education and Bio-Inspired Design With today’s increasing competition and desire for innovation in our society, one of themain goals of engineering schools is to improve students’ creativity. However, according to priorstudies (Genco, Holtta-Otto, Seepersad, 2012), the creativity of mechanical engineering studentsdecreases over the course of an engineering program. In this paper we seek to answer twoquestions. First, we want to understand how the creativity of mechanical engineers is changingover time in other mechanical engineering programs, as measured against four standard metricsof creativity – quantity, quality, variety and novelty. Second, we want to understand howbiologically inspired design, and different methods within biologically inspired design, might beused to enhance student performance. To answer the first question, we provide evidence from two studies: The first, a within-subjects longitudinal study, analyzes and compares the results of fourteen students who havegenerated solutions for the same design problem during their freshman and senior years. Theresults from different years are measured in terms of the quantity of ideas, quality, novelty, andvariety of the solutions generated. In the second study, a between-groups study, we compare theaverage results of students in different years of study (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, andseniors). While the within-subjects study demonstrates selective increases in creativity for smallgroups, the between-groups study demonstrates that across the whole, we see no significantchange in creativity across the program. To answer the second question, we provide evidence from the study of a biologicallyinspired design course. This study conducted over two semesters one year apart, evaluates theeffects of a senior level Bio-Inspired Design course and various methods of performing bio-inspired design. Student designers learned 5 methods of conducting bio-inspired design: DirectedMethod, Case Study,, BioTriz, and Functional Basis Keyword. Each method iscompared by analyzing the resulting design results in terms of the quantity of ideas, quality,novelty and variety of the solutions generated. The results show various strengths andweaknesses associated with each tool. The students were also given Carberry et al’s EngineeringDesign Self-Efficacy survey before and after the course to assess the effects of the course. Theresults show increases in confidence, a high level of motivation, and decreases in anxiety inconducting engineering design. Our initial studies provide supporting evidence that for the measures of quantity, quality,variety and novelty for controlled, short design tasks, student engineers generally do not improvein creativity. Our follow-up studies demonstrate that within the context of a course inbiologically inspired design, some methods may be better suited for improving different aspectsof creativity. We also demonstrate that student self-efficacy measures improve across the coursein general.

Durand, F. R., & Kim, J. W., & Henao, D., & Tsenn, J., & McAdams, D. A., & Linsey, J. S., & Helms, M. (2015, June), Changing Creativity through Engineering Education and Bio-Inspired Design Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23681

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