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Synthesizing Creative Processing In Engineering Curricula Through Art

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Design and the Liberal Arts

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1050.1 - 7.1050.12



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Paper Authors

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Angela Patton

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Richard Bannerot

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Session 2661

Synthesizing Creative Processing in Engineering Curricula through Art

Angela H. Patton, Richard B. Bannerot

University of Houston


Engineering stands poised between mind and matter. It is a discipline that gives shape to unseen forces and application to scientific query. Translating ideas and phenomena into accessible forms requires ingenuity. Engineers imagine and invent. In the context of engineering education, creativity is recognized as a valuable attribute. And yet, most engineering programs lack an effective means of synthesizing creative processing into the core values of the curriculum.

In 1828, the Institution of Civil Engineers defined engineering as “the art of directing great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man.” 1 By 1956, this definition expanded beyond harnessing physical phenomena to include “application of knowledge” and “design and production.” 2 What remained consistent however, was the idea that engineering is artfully disposed. This suggests a level of care and understanding that conjoins thought and feeling. If the transformation of science and technology into products and systems requires empathy or “emotional union,” 3 (i.e., the projection of self into objects) then the education and training of engineers should include an understanding of intuitive processing.

Engineers must have proficiency in the basic languages of math and science in order to affect the physical world. Engineers must understand phenomena on an elemental level as they seek to pilot the laws of nature. Consider that -- the laws of nature are based on universal principles of order, organization, and efficiency – all basic tenets of design.

Design mediates between tangible and intangible forces. It fuses the immediacy of the physical world with the illusiveness of beauty. Design is driven by a museful urge to create; and, it is tempered by the physical limitations of the material world. In this paper, we explore design theory and design process in the context of art as a means to structure creative processing into engineering curricula. Our perspective is based on an existing undergraduate, interdisciplinary teaching initiative forged between engineering and art where visual principles of design are introduced and exercised. Acclimating students to the language and culture of design serves to demystify the creative process and enhance imaginative problem solving. Because design prizes intuitive processing and offers an

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Patton, A., & Bannerot, R. (2002, June), Synthesizing Creative Processing In Engineering Curricula Through Art Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11087

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