Asee peer logo

Expert Innovators and Innovation Education: Mental Models in Practice

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Trends in Engineering Education 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.576.1 - 24.576.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Eden Fisher Carnegie Mellon University

visit author page

Eden Fisher is director of the master's program in engineering and technology innovation management (E&TIM) and Professor of the Practice at Carnegie Mellon University. She earned an A.B. in chemistry from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University. Her experience includes over 20 years in industrial technology planning and innovation management.

visit author page


Indira Nair Carnegie Mellon University

visit author page

Indira Nair retired from Carnegie Mellon University after 32 years. For the last 12 of those years, she was the vice provost for education and a professor in the department of engineering and public policy. She has designed and taught several interdisciplinary courses, including the ethics of science and technology, environmental science, technology and decision-making, and radiation, health, and policy. Her research has ranged over risk assessment and communication, green design, bioelectromagnetics, education in general, and pedagogy for modern-day literacy, such as scientific, environmental, and global literacy.

Dr. Nair chaired the national Global Learning Leadership Council of the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) from 2010 to 2013. She advises several universities and colleges on incorporating global and environmental literacy throughout the curriculum. She has served on numerous national committees including National Science Foundation's Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) and on the Division of Education and Human Resources Advisory Committee (EHR), the Educators Advisory Panel of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Board of Student Pugwash USA. She has been involved in K-12 education and served as a member of the Board of the Pittsburgh Regional Center for Science Teachers, the School Reform Task Force of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, helping design the Science and Technology High School, the founding Boards of two charter schools –City High and the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park, and on the Winchester Thurston Advisory Board. She is co-author of a book, Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants, (Temple University Press, 1997).

She founded the Carnegie Mellon Chapter of Student Pugwash to encourage students to think about the social responsibility of science and technology. Her current quests and involvements include: a new scheme for general education including the new literacies; pedagogies for educating for innovation; increasing the inclusion of under-represented minorities across all segments of education; improving K-12 STEM education and bioelectromagnetics. She holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Northwestern University and a Pennsylvania teachers Certificate for high school science teaching

visit author page


Mustafa A. Biviji E2RG

visit author page

Mustafa A. Biviji has worked in different roles in the software industry, at a policy think-tank, and in a consulting firm. His interests lie in spotting and analyzing innovations in the electrical and electronics industry. Mr. Biviji is currently an engineering analyst at Energy & Environmental Resources Group, LLC (E2RG). In this role, he analyzes new trends in the smart electric-grid sector and consults with electric utilities to help them adapt. He also has developed a tool to determine new dynamic rates for utility customers on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. He completed his M.S. degree in engineering and technology innovation management from Carnegie Mellon University and his bachelor's degree in electronics engineering from University of Mumbai, India.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Expert Innovators and Innovation Education: Mental Models in PracticeIncreasingly, the engineering education community is asked to contribute to preparingstudents for leading innovation and creating new value. One particular challenge foreducators is that successful innovation builds on expertise from years of experience.How can a limited academic program provide students with valuable innovationeducation?Keys to effective innovation education may be found in the insights of expert innovatorsthemselves. Experienced innovators often provide guest lectures to students who arestudying innovation. This widely used approach takes different forms and may addresstopics as diverse as the innovations and the guest innovators themselves.A mental models study of expert innovators provided a systematic framework fordescribing patterns in how innovators understand innovation. This framework includes:motivating goals for innovation, innovator skills and attributes, and processes andenvironments for innovation. The expert innovators in the mental models studyconsidered these same elements as important focus areas for innovation education, whichis the basis for a corresponding mental model framework for innovation education.This paper describes the application of the expert innovator mental model frameworks ininnovation management education for graduate engineers. It focuses on examples fromone program, which has integrated the framework for innovation into the curriculum.Students learn the framework as part of their introduction to their study of innovation,and refer to it as a touchstone throughout the program. As a result, evolvingunderstanding of innovation by individual students is captured. The correspondingframework for innovation education is also used to shape elements of the program itself.In a significant example, an expert innovator who guest lectures for the program studiedthe mental model results and subsequently changed the focus and nature of his guestteaching about a historic innovation. After the reframing, a session that had originallybeen a lecture became a quick re-enactment of a team innovation. With the expertinnovator as the team leader, the team of students experienced the dynamics of exploringpossibilities and identifying specific actions necessary for creating value from atechnically challenging problem in the context of real world constraints. The innovationmental models framework helped balance the discussion across a range of significantissues, while the expert provided powerful scaffolding that enabled students to test ideasand (re)discover pivotal moves by the original innovation team. Post-class evaluationscaptured rich reflections of a range of aspects of innovation, reflecting progress towardthe goal of teaching “how to innovate” beyond “how this specific innovation happened.”Engineering innovation education is an opportunity that invites exploration of newapproaches to teaching. Initial results from the application of expert mental models ofinnovation to education offer promise. This can be a powerful way to integrate expertiseinto innovation education.

Fisher, E., & Nair, I., & Biviji, M. A. (2014, June), Expert Innovators and Innovation Education: Mental Models in Practice Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20467

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