Creativity is a major factor in many careers, subjects, and disciplines. Although many people first assume engineering to be a field of study that does not require any creativity, it is actually an essential tool for successful engineers. The mark of a truly accomplished engineer is the ability to problem-solve effectively; in other words, to generate creative solutions. Although the goal as engineers is to become more creative throughout one’s career, is it even possible to gain creativity? Is creativity an innate quality, or a learned one? Since the engineering process demands creativity, we looked into how creativity can be improved, and how exactly it is used in the engineering design process. We surveyed engineering freshman students to determine how they view themselves and how important they think creativity is in relation to engineering. We then conducted research to see what creativity means to different people, how one can improve creativity according to various theories, and how creative processes have been used in past engineering projects. We presented this information to all sections of a second-semester engineering freshman course and surveyed the students at the beginning and end of the lecture to see how their views changed. We evaluated this data to discover if students perceive creativity as learned or innate and how it affects their idea on engineering. The students showed an improvement in awareness of the importance of creativity in engineering and how often it is used. Many did not change their opinion of themselves with regard to creativity but some actually ranked themselves lower after the presentation, presumably because they realized the extent of how creative some people are, especially in regard to engineering. The other data we analyzed was student responses to short questions. We asked students what qualities they associate with creative people and the most commonly used words were “thinks outside of the box,” “innovative,” “confident,” and “open minded.” We also asked what the best techniques for improving creativity within a group are. The most common answers were “different backgrounds,” “different ideas,” “being comfortable,” and “diversity.” These answers mirrored the overall message we attempted to portray throughout our presentation to a fair degree.
© 2013 IJITCE
Published in final form at:
Alyssa Black, William Dow, Stephanie Harrison, Adam Krebs, Kathleen McGuire, Phillip Stroch, Jessica Urbano, Bradley Chase, Frank Jacobitz, and Thomas Schubert, "Free Your Mind-Unlock Your Inner Creativity," International Journal of Innovative Technology and Creative Engineering, Volume 3, 127-138, 2013.
Black, Alyssa; Dow, William; Harrison, Stephanie; Kerbs, Adam; McGuire, Katheleen; Stroch, Phillip; Urbano, Jessica; Chase, Bradley; Jacobitz, Frank G.; and Schubert, Thomas, "Free Your Mind-Unlock Your Inner Creativity" (2013). Engineering Faculty Publications. Paper 22.