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Do Students Dream Beyond LEDs? Innovative Qualities of Ideas Generated by First-year Engineering Students

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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

Research on Engineering Design Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.475.1 - 25.475.10



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Paper Authors


Nicholas D. Fila Purdue University

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Nicholas D. Fila is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois. He has published conference papers on cooperative learning and team innovation. His research focuses on teamwork, innovation, and laboratory education.

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Senay Purzer Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Senay Purzer is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education and is the Director of Assessment Research for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) at Purdue University. Purzer has journal publications on instrument development, teacher professional development, and K-12 engineering education. Her research focuses on assessing constructs such as innovation, information literacy, and collaborative learning.

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Do Students Dream beyond LEDs? Innovative Qualities of Ideas Generated by First-Year Engineering StudentsOne of the goals of engineering education is to help students develop skills and competencies tobe innovative. This goal is motivated by the need for innovative engineering graduates who cantackle the grand challenges of engineering. From making solar energy economical to reverseengineering the brain, bright, forward-thinking, and imaginative engineers are being counted onto ensure society’s successful transition into the future. Yet, recent studies have shown thatcurrent engineering graduates are less innovative than their first-year counterparts, oftenbecoming fixated on current solutions rather than considering alternatives.The purpose of this study is to assess engineering students’ strengths and weaknesses in specificaspects of innovation (i.e., feasibility, sustainability, usefulness, desirability) at the onset of theireducation. Research on these areas will allow educators to develop methods to address gaps instudents’ innovative abilities.We define innovation as containing four elements: feasibility, sustainability, usefulness, anddesirability. Feasibility refers to how easily the solution can be implemented. Sustainability isrelated to economic viability and refers to how easily the solution can be maintained. Usefulnessrefers to how well the solution fulfills the needs identified by the problem. Desirability refers tohow accepting users and other stakeholders will be of the solution.Seventy-one students completed an idea generation task as part of a course practical exam. Thestudents were asked to individually brainstorm inexpensive energy-saving solutions for a locallibrary, select a best solution, and describe why their chosen solution was innovative. Thesolutions were scored using constant comparison on a five-point integer scale (with 5 as thehighest score).The average scores in each of the four elements of innovation were as follows: 3.75 (feasibility),4.56 (sustainability), 3.59 (usefulness), and 2.89 (desirability). The average innovation score,taken as the fourth-root of the product of the four elements, was 3.57. Overall, studentsdemonstrated strong consideration for sustainability and little consideration of desirability. Themost popular solution was replacing current light bulbs with LEDs. Based on these results, wesuggest that future research should focus on methods to improve students’ understanding of theimportance of desirability as an important aspect of innovative design.

Fila, N. D., & Purzer, S. (2012, June), Do Students Dream Beyond LEDs? Innovative Qualities of Ideas Generated by First-year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21233

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