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Motivating With Inquiry Arousal: Creative Problem Solving In Engineering Courses

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Best Zone Paper Competition

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1082.1 - 12.1082.12



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Paper Authors

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Mark Miles United States Military Academy

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C.M. Chewar United States Military Academy

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


Mark Miles & C. M. Chewar; United States Military Academy Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science West Point, NY 10996

Abstract: Many students pursue engineering disciplines because they enjoy creating systems and devices that are used to solve real problems. However, it is our belief that many engineering classes, especially at the introductory level, fail to engage students because they focus too much on objective data-manipulation exercises instead of encouraging inventive problem solving. This paper examines the effects of methods that allow students in an introductory level engineering course to use their creativity and inventiveness to solve problems, an approach referred to as inquiry arousal. The approach used in this research was to modify a certain number of laboratory requirements to allow the student to apply an open-ended problem solving approach to obtain a solution. The goal of the assigned problems was to allow the student some flexibility to be creative while demonstrating fundamental mechanics. The authors obtained data and evaluated the effects of this approach through grade performance and student feedback. This paper attempts to measure the effects that assignments based on an inquiry arousal approach have on both the students’ interest in the material and the students’ level of learning.

Key words: Course Design, Problem Solving, Teaching, Creativity

1. Introduction: As a student progresses throughout their academic curriculum, they will almost assuredly encounter subjects that they do not enjoy studying. Good students will overcome the frustration associated with working outside of their “comfort zone” and do their best to learn subjects that they do not enjoy. For many engineering students, learning mathematical theory or background, while important, is tedious; academic engagement is stimulated by an environment where they can apply some concepts to solve a problem. This paper will discus experiences with altering a course to include more opportunities for the students to solve open ended multi-concept problems. There is a great deal of published research that deals with the underlying philosophy and expected learning effects of providing “ill-formed” problems for student to solve [5]. This paper studies and offers recommendations on building creative problems into an introductory engineering course. Parts 2 and 3 of this paper describe an instructor’s experiences and observations while altering a course. Part 4 of the paper presents data collected related to the changes in the course implementation. Part 5 discusses possible approaches to writing good questions, gleaned through our experience. The final part of the paper summarizes the key points.

Miles, M., & Chewar, C. (2007, June), Motivating With Inquiry Arousal: Creative Problem Solving In Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3083

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