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Indicators of Creative and Entrepreneurial Thinking Among Engineering and Technology Students

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Basic Concepts in Entrepreneurship

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.740.1 - 23.740.9



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Paper Authors


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. Dr. Purzer is a NAE/CASEE New Faculty Fellow. She is also the recipient of a 2012 NSF CAREER award, which examines how engineering students approach innovation. Her expertise is on assessment and mixed-methods research.

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Nicholas D. Fila Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Nicholas is a Ph.D. student in engineering education at Purdue University. His research interests include engineering design, team learning, and instructional laboratories. He has conference publications on cooperative learning, engineering laboratories, innovation, and design.

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Observing Indicators of Creative and Entrepreneurial Thinking Among Engineering and Technology StudentsInnovativeness, a skill critical for many engineers and technologists, requires both creative andentrepreneurial thinking. Both engineers and technologists are called upon to develop unique and elegantsolutions to challenging problems, identify need-based opportunities, and promote promising projects.The assessment of these skills, however, is challenging. Many innovation and creativity researchers haveattempted to identify student innovativeness through design prototypes/concepts, idea generation tasks, orsurveys. We used an alternative, mixed-methods approach to identify individual characteristics that mightpromote innovativeness and behaviors that indicate a greater propensity to develop skills related toinnovativeness. Some research has focused on skills and behaviors of professional innovators, but we stillknow little about these qualities in engineering and technology students.In this paper, the personal characteristics, creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking of two students (onemale senior majoring in multidisciplinary engineering and one male junior majoring in computer graphicstechnology) are examined using a case study analysis. These students individually participated in a two-hour protocol including a semi-structured interview, an ideation task, and a process mapping task.Throughout the protocol, students discussed innovative projects on which they had worked, developedsolutions to an open-ended design problem, and indicated the most promising solution as well as howthey would bring that solution to market. The student responses during all tasks were qualitativelyanalyzed for approach to design, innovation, or entrepreneurship; attitudes toward innovation andcreativity; and definition of innovation. In addition, the innovation process maps created during theprocess mapping task was analyzed using a project realization framework and a novel state diagramtechnique.Alex, a senior in multidisciplinary engineering, viewed innovation as the purpose of any engineeringdesign activity. His approach favored “big picture” thinking and comprehensive problem framing. He alsoindicated that time and budget constraints diminished opportunities to explore potentially innovativesolutions. Ben, a junior in computer graphics technology, linked innovation to the continuousimprovement of design solutions. His design approach favored improving usefulness, especially based onhis own experience as a user. He indicated that team preferences and project specifications influenced ateam’s ability to develop an innovative solution. Both students demonstrated iteration in their innovationprocess mapping task. Alex’s view of innovation process included frequent iteration between opportunityfinding and conceptual design, but no link from production back to opportunity finding (i.e. theinnovation process completes once a product has reached market). Ben’s view included frequent cyclesfrom testing and production back to conceptual design, frequent recursive loops in both opportunityfinding and conceptual design, and a moderate link from production back to opportunity finding. Futurestudies should explore if engineering students favor early exploration of the design problem and solutionspaces while technology students recognize the likeliness for design modifications after testing andproduction and how these different approaches might impact their ability to innovate.

Purzer, S., & Fila, N. D. (2013, June), Indicators of Creative and Entrepreneurial Thinking Among Engineering and Technology Students Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19754

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