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Creativity Exercises and Design Methods to Enhance Innovation in Engineering Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

ERM Technical Session 12: Creativity and Problem Framing

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Michael Lawrence Anderson P.E. United States Air Force Academy

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Lt Col Mike Anderson is an Associate Professor and Director of Capstone Programs, Department of Engineering Mechanics, US Air Force Academy. He has pursued research in engineering education for several years in the areas of curriculum design and assessment, capstone design experiences, innovative design methodologies, and enhancing student creativity. In addition, he pursues technical research in autonomous systems, design of terrestrial and aerial robots, flight control of Micro Air Vehicles (MAV), sports science and sports technology. Lt Col Anderson has worked as an F-16 flight control actuation systems engineer and as a Deputy Division Chief in the Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate where he led research in GPS-denied navigation for multi-agent autonomous systems. Lt Col Anderson is a registered Professional Engineer and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.

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Karen Elaine Anderson Destination Imagination Inc.

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Karen Anderson graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Resource Recreation Management and a minor in Youth Agencies. She has been married to Marshall for 49 years and together they have 5 children ranging in age from 45-32. Karen recently retired from the Board of Trustees of Destination Imagination Inc. after 12 years of service but continues volunteering in her home state and at the National Level . Karen has been involved in every aspect of creative problem solving and Destination Imagination Inc. for the past 34 years, for 26 years she was the Affiliate Director of Oregon Destination Imagination Inc and affiliate of the national organization. She has taught numerous classes on creative problem solving, as well as classes to gifted students through a program at Oregon State University. In addition Karen has been a long time volunteer with the Boy Scout receiving the District Award of Merit, Order of the Arrow and other awards. She has served on the Pastoral Council of her Church, chaired the Archdiocese Marriage and Family Life Board, chaired the Corvallis School District Talented and Gifted Advisory Board and was President of Assistance League of Corvallis which serves under privileged youth. She is currently serving on the Leadership Team of The National Assistance League headquartered in Burbank Calif.

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Daniel D. Jensen Singapore University of Technology and Design/MIT International Design Center

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Dr. Dan Jensen retired as a Professor of Engineering Mechanics at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2018 after 21 years. He received his B.S. (Mechanical Engineering), M.S. (Applied Mechanics) and Ph.D. (Aerospace Engineering Science) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has worked for Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, NASA, University of the Pacific, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and MSC Software Corp. His research includes design of Micro Air Vehicles, development of innovative design methodologies and enhancement of engineering education. Dr Jensen has authored over 120 refereed papers and has been awarded over $4.5 million of research grants. He is a Fellow at the Singapore Univ. of Technology and Design's International Design Center.

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This evidence-based practice paper describes the use of creativity practice exercises intended to enhance student creativity in a capstone design program. Engineering programs, in general, and capstone design programs, in particular, that seek innovative conceptual solutions to complex problems would benefit from techniques to develop and assess student creativity. Therefore, a study was performed to evaluate two such techniques. Over the first two years of the study, capstone design students in the United States Air Force Academy’s Department of Engineering Mechanics were each assigned to one of 14 teams which received various learning experiences (treatments) intended to enhance individual creativity and design project innovation. Twelve of the 14 teams (n = 70) received an innovative engineering design curriculum while the control teams (n = 23) did not. Six teams (n = 37) experienced seven weekly creativity exercises across the fall semester, provided by Destination Imagination, while four teams (n = 56) did not. It was expected that the exercises would improve Creativity Index scores in students across the study as measured by the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) Figural Test. The Creativity Index scores of the students were analyzed using an independent sample t-test to determine if any differences could be detected. Results after the first two years are positive, indicating that students that participated in the creativity-enhancing treatments showed higher improvements in Creativity Index scores compared to the controls. However, the statistical significance of these findings are not strong, presumably due to the small sample size. Therefore, the research will continue in subsequent years. In addition, evaluation of the design teams’ concepts by experienced engineering design faculty indicated that the teams that participated in the creativity exercises exhibited greater innovation in their design process versus the control. Finally, students reported that the exercises are fun and help them expand their way of thinking to consider unexpected solutions to a diverse array of challenges.

Anderson, M. L., & Anderson, K. E., & Jensen, D. D. (2019, June), Creativity Exercises and Design Methods to Enhance Innovation in Engineering Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32566

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