Asee peer logo

Igniting Creativity and Innovation in Engineering Students: The Case for Technology and Society Courses in Engineering Curricula

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Sandy Chang University of Calgary

visit author page

Dr. Chang's current research interests lie in the areas of engineering education and international development. In particular, she is interested in ways to support and enhance diversity in the engineering student population, as well as curriculum development to best prepare students to meet the needs of the green economy. As an extension, she is also exploring ways to engage students in the social side of engineering through community projects. In the field of international development, her primary interests are in safe water supply access, environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Engineering educators have long struggled with coaxing creativity from their students, given the massive amount of prescriptive material that must be covered in their curricula. If students want to graduate in four years, they have very limited time to explore unique interests outside of their specific engineering discipline. A technology and society course offers a tremendous opportunity to bring in material relevant to engineering students at a personal and professional level, and demonstrates applications of skills they are learning in their quantitative courses. This paper describes such a course taught at the University of Calgary that is structured to motivate innovation and entrepreneurship, and to empower students to envision the positive change they can make with skills they have acquired throughout their education. The course consists of over 120 students from second year to fifth year, from all disciplines of engineering offered at the school. The sheer number and diversity of the students required flexibility in material and assessment. As such, the students were given the open prompt of finding a social problem they care about, and devising a technological solution to address it. They were encouraged to consider their solution all the way to implementation, which would require tasks such as talking to regulators, conducting market research, and running surveys. In addition, the students were coached to consider multiple dimensions of framing an engineering problem and solution, as well as how to pitch their ideas targeting four bottom lines: technical acumen, social benefit, environmental impact, and economic viability. In a course that has traditionally been viewed simply as a necessary requirement, many students came alive. Some students are exploring patent options for their innovations, others soliciting partnerships with sports franchises, and others acquiring summer internships as a result of their projects. This paper presents student assessment on the social dimensions of engineering as well as their ability to make a difference in the world, as a consequence of this course.

Chang, S. (2016, June), Igniting Creativity and Innovation in Engineering Students: The Case for Technology and Society Courses in Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25526

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: © 2016 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