An experimental investigation of the innovation capabilities of undergraduate engineering students

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND One of the goals of most undergraduate engineering curricula is to prepare students to solve openended design problems. Solving design problems requires applying technical knowledge to create original ideas and turn those into practical applications. However, the impact of engineering curricula on the innovation capabilities of undergraduate engineers is not well understood. PURPOSE (HYPOTHESIS) This study seeks to provide insights into the research question of whether freshman undergraduate engineering students can be more innovative than seniors. Innovation is measured in terms of the originality of the solutions they propose for an open-ended design problem, as well as the technical feasibility of those solutions for practical application. DESIGN/METHOD Freshman- and senior-level undergraduate engineering students were tasked with developing solutions to a specific design problem (a next-generation alarm clock). Both levels of students used a modified 6-3-5/C-sketch method for generating concepts. A fraction of both the freshman and the senior students also received innovation enhancement. Resulting concepts were analyzed for originality and technical feasibility. RESULTS Freshman students generated concepts that were significantly more original than those of seniors, with no significant difference in quality or technical feasibility of the concepts generated by the two levels of students. CONCLUSIONS Within the limitations of the study, the findings suggest that freshman engineering students can be more innovative than their senior-level counterparts. This motivates the need for additional studies to investigate the effect of factors such as skill acquisition and design curricula on the innovation capabilities of students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-81
Number of pages22
JournalJOURNAL OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION
Volume101
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Creativity
  • Innovation

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