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Creativity Garden Analogy

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design Cognition II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.363.1 - 25.363.11



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Paper Authors


Don L. Dekker University of South Florida

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Don Dekker has been an Adjunct Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida since 2002. He is currently teaching the capstone design course. Before his retirement in 2001, Dekker taught at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He first joined ASEE in 1974 and some of his ASEE activities include Zone II Chairman (1986-1988), Chairman of DEED (1989-1990), and General Chair of FIE, 1987. His degrees include a Ph.D., Stanford University, 1973; a M.S.M.E, University of New Mexico, 1963; and a B.S.M.E., Rose Polytechnic Institute, 1961. He became a Fellow of ASEE in 2007.

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Rajiv Dubey University of South Florida

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Rajiv Dubey is a professor and Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Center for Assistive, Rehabilitation & Robotics Technologies (CARRT). He received his bachelor’s degree from IIT Bombay, and master’s and doctoral degrees from Clemson University, all in mechanical engineering. Before coming to USF, Dubey was a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His research interests include assistive robotics and prosthetics; rehabilitation engineering; and robotics in healthcare, space, undersea, and nuclear waste management. He has published more than 150 refereed articles and directed more than 50 Ph.D. dissertations and M.S. theses. He was an Associate Editor of the IEEE Journal on Robotics and Automation for eight years and has been on numerous organizing committees for major international conferences in robotics. Dubey has received research funding as a PI from various agencies including NSF, NASA, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Education, and the private sector. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

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Stephen Sundarrao University of South Florida

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Stephen Sundarrao is the Associate Director of the USF’s Center for Assistive, Rehabilitation Robotics Technologies (CARRT). His undergraduate and graduate education is in mechanical engineering, and he has nearly 20 years experience as a Rehabilitation Engineer and more than 10 years experience managing a statewide program. He is certified by RESNA as an Assistive Technology Practitioner and Rehabilitation Engineer. He served on the Board of Directors of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) for three years, National Health Advisory Board for the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI), and the Florida Department of Health’s Disability Taskforce on Bioterrorism. He currently teaches the capstone design course for senior mechanical engineering students, which develops 10-15 new innovative technologies for individuals with disabilities annually. He regularly presents papers at national and international conferences. His research interests include advanced vehicle modifications, ergonomics and mobility devices for individuals with disabilities. He received the Presidential Award from NMEDA and an award from the University of Miami for course development and recruitment for their online training in AT. He is actively involved with the state VR program to develop policy and training for better integration of rehabilitation technology services. He is on the advisory board for the RERC on Wheelchair Transportation Safety at the University of Michigan. Recent awards include: Engineer of the Year (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), Innovation Research Award (USF), and Florida Governors Point of Light. In 2006, He founded Rehab Ideas, a start-up company that has commercialized three patented products developed at USF.

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Creativity – Garden Analogy: An Aid to Understanding and Teaching Creativity"Imagination is More Important than Knowledge" Albert EinsteinThe nature of engineering creativity is not well understood. This Creativity-Garden analogycompares the essentials for successful gardening, with the necessary tools for creativity. Thiscomparison provides a comprehensive understanding the creative processes. This understandingcan be used to help us improve our own creativity and we will then be able to teach our studentshow to enhance their creative skills.Suppose you want to plant a garden. You must have a location, a plot of ground, a "space". Thenyou must decide what type of garden you want to plant. Do you want to produce flowers,vegetables, or both?Suppose you decide to plant a flower garden. What varieties of flowers should be planted? Are youor your family allergic to pollen? What time of year do you want the flowers to bloom? How muchtender, loving care are you planning to spend? How hardy does the variety have to be? Do youwant annual plants or perennials? Etc?Next, choose a vegetable garden. What fruits or vegetables do you like to eat? How much tender,loving care are you planning to spend? Do you want to spray or do you want to garden organically?What vegetables grow best in the climate. Etc?Many people derive a lot of satisfaction from planting large and small vegetable and flower gardensevery year.The "creative" items are analogous to the gardener's knowledge, tools, and techniques. GARDEN -=- CREATIVITY Fertile Ground -=- Environment Sunshine -=- Appropriate Language Tools -=- Creative Enhancement Techniques Weed and Spray -=- Quit Interfering with Natural Creativity Water and Fertilizer -=- Develop a Creative AttitudeEach of these sections will be discussed in detail in the paper.In his book, Design Engineering: Inventiveness, Analysis, & Decision Making, John Dixon states"Though a great deal is still to be learned about the question, present indications strongly suggest areal conflict between the inventive and analytic roles of modern design engineers. It is important,therefore, that engineers be aware of this conflict and take steps to resolve it." We, as faculty, needto understand how the inventive and analytic roles work together in engineering design.Dr. Paul MacCready said in a talk at Rose-Hulman, "Thinking and creativity can be taught as askill." Creative skills can be taught: therefore, creative skills can be learned. We may not become aMichelangelo or daVinci, but we can become more creative. This is good news! We don't quitplaying golf, or tennis because we aren't as good as Tiger Woods or Roger Federer. With this inmind, we can look forward to improving our creative skills as we travel through life.

Dekker, D. L., & Dubey, R., & Sundarrao, S. (2012, June), Creativity Garden Analogy Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21121

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