An experimental investigation of the innovation capabilities of engineering students

Nicole Genco*, Katja Hölttä-Otto, Carolyn Conner Seepersad

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


One of the greatest challenges facing engineering education is the need to educate engineers who can innovate successfully. With increasing calls for enhancing the level of innovation in the national economy, the role of innovation in engineering education is often underemphasized and poorly understood. In this experimental study, we compare the results of concept generation exercises completed by freshman- and senior-level mechanical engineering students. Students were asked to use a modified 6-3-5/C-sketch method to generate concepts for a next-generation alarm clock. Senior-level students were divided into control and subject groups who implemented the standard 6-3-5/C-sketch method and a version of the method enhanced for creativity, respectively. Resulting concepts were analyzed using metrics for novelty, fixation, and quality. The results indicated that the freshman students produced more novel concepts and were less fixated on the sample clocks shown in the experiment. Both freshman and senior groups produced concepts with similar (high) levels of quality and feasibility. The results support the troubling conclusion that freshman engineering students are more innovative than seniors. This conclusion highlights the need for increased emphasis on innovation and creativity in the engineering curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2010
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventASEE Annual Conference - Louisville, United States
Duration: 20 Jun 201023 Jun 2010
Conference number: 117

Publication series

NameASEE Annual Conference
ISSN (Print)2153-5868
ISSN (Electronic)2153-5965


ConferenceASEE Annual Conference
CountryUnited States

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