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Invention And Creative Design: Getting From Thought To Thing

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.662.1 - 6.662.12



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Kathryn Jablokow

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3425

Invention and Creative Design: Getting from Thought to Thing

Kathryn W. Jablokow The Pennsylvania State University


This paper describes a course entitled Invention and Creative Design that is currently taught as part of the Systems and Software Engineering programs at Penn State University’s School for Graduate Professional Studies. The course was designed to support several modules in these programs, including a core skill-based module and a module focused on innovation. This paper will provide an overview of the objectives and the content of this course. Specific classroom activities and delivery techniques will be discussed, along with typical homework assignments and the semester-long individual course project. Student outcomes and feedback will be reported as well. While the present audience for this course is composed of working adults, it is highly suitable as a junior or senior level design elective and may be easily integrated into an undergraduate curriculum.

1.0 Introduction

What do the processes of invention, engineering design, and creative problem solving have in common? This paper describes a course that answers this question by examining invention and creative design from the perspective of the practicing engineer. The primary objective of this course is to help students understand what happens on the path from a good idea to a good product, taking both technical and human factors, including psychology, into consideration.

The course explores the fundamental nature of invention and creative design through case studies of familiar objects, from paper clips and pencils to airplanes and modern skyscrapers. These real- world artifacts are approached from a perspective which highlights different facets of the invention process, including design models, analysis, development, failure, economics, aesthetics, social factors, and intellectual property issues. The case studies cover a variety of engineering fields, including aeronautical, civil, environmental, computer, electrical, manufacturing, mechanical, and systems engineering.

One unique feature of this course is its treatment of human psychology and the metacognitive aspects of the design process using M. J. Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation theory3,4,5. Kirton’s theory describes the differences in creative style exhibited by people as they engage in problem solving processes, including engineering design. In this course, students receive individual feedback from the Kirton Adaption-Innovation (KAI) inventory, a highly validated assessment tool that is administered at the beginning of the semester. The results of this inventory are also used in planning small group activities for the classroom that provide the students with further insights in the areas of communication, collaboration, and teamwork. In addition, the course

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Jablokow, K. (2001, June), Invention And Creative Design: Getting From Thought To Thing Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9482

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: © 2001 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