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Problem Solving And Creativity Experiences For Freshman Engineers

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Problem-Solving & Project-Based Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1015.1 - 10.1015.13

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Paper Authors

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Karen High

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Ben Lawrence

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Cynthia Mann

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

Problem Solving and Creativity Experiences for Freshman Engineers

Karen A. High, Cynthia Mann, Ben Lawrence School of Chemical Engineering Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK 74078


An engineering orientation class at Oklahoma State University has provided an opportunity to develop and enhance problem solving and creativity skills for freshman. For two semesters, classes have been led through experiences that include making candy airplanes, making better pizzas, and devising ways to keep ice cream from melting. These three projects have served as a vehicle for introducing students to the important tasks involved with engineering product and process design. This course is also part of a larger effort towards introducing students to entrepreneurship concepts.

During the multi-week design project portion of the course, students are given a vaguely worded open-ended market-driven design problem, and asked to find a solution. The problem is based around food, such as pizza or ice cream, and is designed to be fun. Group dynamics, project planning, problem definition, brainstorming, experiment design, and creativity are some of the major points discussed. The project culminates with the student presenting their solutions to their peers and demonstrating any prototypes they developed.


College students typically do not see engineering as a creative field of study. Students see engineering as very mathematical and rigorous. Freshmen often look at the daunting curriculum and see an abundance of work with little or no reward. What is not apparent in the underclass- engineering curriculum is the amount of creativity that is necessary to solve industrial problems1. This becomes more apparent in advanced courses, such as senior design, but we must be able to retain students until that level. Additionally students feel that they will be attacking projects on an individual basis, as was the case for much of their high school experience. Once the students reach later classes, they realize that the norm is to solve problems in student teams.

Students retained until graduation sometimes also express apathy toward the field of engineering. Upon finally reaching graduation, some are so burned-out that they are not able to look forward to beginning a new career. At OSU some were specifically asking for more opportunity to have creative input in their education. It was believed that if they could take more ownership in their projects—by expressing their unique ideas, that they would feel more pride in their work2. Thus projects that had been exhausting because of their abstractness might become less exhausting because of the personal pride and motivation of working toward one’s own creative expression3.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

High, K., & Lawrence, B., & Mann, C. (2005, June), Problem Solving And Creativity Experiences For Freshman Engineers Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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: © 2005 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