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Teaching Idea Generation to Undergraduate Students Within the Time Constraints of a Capstone Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Idea Generation and Creativity in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1476.1 - 26.1476.14



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Paper Authors


Shraddha Sangelkar Pennsylvania State University, Erie

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Shraddha Sangelkar is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. She received her M.S. (2010) and Ph.D. (2013) in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University. She completed the B. Tech (2008) in Mechanical Engineering from Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (V.J.T.I.), Mumbai, India. She has served an instructor for the senior capstone design course in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. She is actively teaching and mentoring capstone design at Penn State Erie. Dr. Sangelkar’s research interest lies in developing methods that teach designers to create better products for people (Design Theory and Methodology), and leveraging current machine learning methods to automate routine design tasks (Computational Design Synthesis). She is also involved in pedagogical research to enhancing the engineering classroom experience.

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Charlotte de Vries Penn State Erie, the Behrend College

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Dr. Charlotte de Vries is a Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 2009. She received her M.S. (2013) and Ph.D. (2014) in Mechanical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. She teaches Dynamics, System Dynamics, and Instrumentation, Measurement, and Statistics.

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Omar Ashour Pennsylvania State University, Erie Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Omar Ashour is Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College. Dr. Ashour received the B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering/Manufacturing Engineering and the M.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) in 2005 and 2007, respectively. He received his M.Eng. degree in Industrial Engineering/Human Factors and Ergonomics and the Ph.D. degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Dr. Ashour's research areas include applied decision making and simulation. He contributed to research directed to improve engineering education.

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William C. Lasher Pennsylvania State University, Erie

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Bill Lasher is professor in the Mechanical Engineering program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. He received his B.S.E. and M.S.E. degrees in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, as well as a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honorary Society. His research interests are in computational fluid dynamics and engineering education. He teaches courses in engineering design, fluid mechanics, strength of materials, and computational fluid dynamics.

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Teaching Concept Generation to Undergraduate Students within the Time Constraints of a Capstone CourseHow can we teach the undergraduate students to be more creative in their senior design projectswhen there is a time constraint in a capstone course? In most schools, a lot of new material iscovered in a short period of time, which limits the time available for concept generation. InUniversity of X, we are limited to three 50-minute class periods to teach concept generation.Which idea generation method is most effective? In spite of the wide array of ideation methods,the undergraduate students often end up implementing only the basic brainstorming method fortheir capstone projects. The senior design projects in the Mechanical Engineering (ME) capstoneprogram at University of X range from optimization or creating a mathematical model tobuilding a prototype or conducting experiments. Due to the wide variety of projects in MEcapstone program, it is difficult to teach a “one –size fits all” concept generation method.Different idea generation methods are more or less applicable for a certain type of project.To address these issues, an exploratory study is conducted at University of X to teach ideageneration methods to seniors using peer learning. The capstone cohort in the ME programconsists of project teams of 4 students each. We divide the students into 4 sections such thatevery member of the project team is in a different section. Faculty with engineering designbackground coach each section and they are well aware of ideation methods and their usefulness.Each section learns a different idea generation method. The ideation methods covered arebrainstorming, collaborative sketching, mind-maps, morph matrix, design by analogy, TRIZ, bio-inspired design, and 77 design heuristics for inspiring ideas.In the first class period, a method to initiate idea generation is taught, and the students are giventime to implement it for a common design prompt. A method to kick-start ideation is taught inthe second class period and students continue to generate ideas for the same design prompt. Inthe third class period, students rate the ideation results of their peers who were in a differentsection. They also discuss and compare the ideation methods with their project teams, and fill outa survey. The survey collects feedback about the perceived usefulness of each ideation methodand the methods that they plan to implement for their project. The authors believe that it isperfectly legit if the team decides to implement a mix of methods or if each student in the projectteam applies a different method for concept generation as long as it fosters creativity.This study aims to determine preferences across different idea generation methods, and thefactors that might influence these preferences. This study also investigates whether peer learningis effective way for teaching a variety of idea generation methods. Finally, the study comparesthe concepts generated using different methods based on the ideation metrics: quality, quantity,novelty, and variety to determine usefulness of each method at the undergraduate level.

Sangelkar, S., & de Vries, C., & Ashour, O., & Lasher, W. C. (2015, June), Teaching Idea Generation to Undergraduate Students Within the Time Constraints of a Capstone Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24813

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