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I’m Not the Creative Type: Barriers to Student Creativity within Engineering Innovation Projects

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Developing the Design Skillset

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.831.1 - 24.831.15



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Paper Authors


Nicholas D. Fila Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Nicholas D. Fila is a doctoral student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His current research interests include design learning, engineering innovation and creativity, human-centered design, cross-disciplinary teamwork, and decision-making. In his spare time he enjoys songwriting, team sports, distance running, and watching movies.

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Senay Purzer Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16


Paul D. Mathis Engineering Education

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Paul Mathis is a PhD student in the school of Engineering Education and a council member for ASEE student chapter at Purdue University. He has a bachelors degree in Physical Science and a Masters in Education Curriculum. His areas of interest are design, innovation, creativity and improving skills of future engineers.

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I’m Not the Creative Type: Student Approaches to Creativity within Innovation ProjectsInnovativeness and creativity are critical skills for engineering graduates. However, currentresearch suggests that students experience design fixation and do not place high value oncreativity. More work is needed to understand the relationship between student creativity andtheir perceptions of their creative ability to understand supporting and hindering factors.Nine seniors in a variety of engineering majors participated in two think-aloud protocols, one todocument their process for developing an innovative solution and one to generate innovativeideas to an open-ended problem. Each of these phases was followed by a semi-structuredinterview. Students also completed a final semi-structured interview to describe their experienceson innovation projects and views of innovation. The data were collected using video-recorders,audio-recorders, and smart pens, which captured writing, sketches, and talking.The results of this study indicate that students value creativity in the context of innovation, butare inhibited by three factors. First, they do not see themselves as creative. Second, they avoidcreative solutions that are not immediately feasible due to fear of failure. Third, they limitthemselves to familiar and comfortable tasks that align with their academic discipline. Resultsalso indicated that students believed creativity occurred during innovation in three ways: (1)though collective action of a design team, (2) by applying routine problem solving techniques tonovel problems or applying common solutions in novel contexts, and (3) by delegating creativetasks to those with specialized skills.These results suggest that instructors should provide opportunities for students to develop andnurture creative confidence, encourage students to pursue potentially creative solutions and avoidpenalization for “failure,” and create team environments for students to work outside theirdisciplinary comfort zones and interact with students from a variety of academic backgrounds.

Fila, N. D., & Purzer, S., & Mathis, P. D. (2014, June), I’m Not the Creative Type: Barriers to Student Creativity within Engineering Innovation Projects Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20574

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