From Brainstorming to C-Sketch to Principles of Historical Innovators: Ideation Techniques to Enhance Student Creativity

  • Christina K. White
  • Kristin L. Wood
  • Dan Jensen
Keywords: engineering education, design teams, concept generation, innovation, creativity


The heart and soul of engineering is innovation and our ability to improve the human condition through design. To enrich engineering education, it critical that we advance our teaching in innovation and design processes. This research focuses on the ideation component of innovation through the investigation of a suite of concept generation techniques. These techniques have been developed for engineering education across disciplines and at all levels of curriculum. In this paper, we advance our suite of techniques through the evolution of a method known as principles of historical innovators. Based on the deployment of the techniques, including the evolved method, at the freshman- and senior-levels, we execute a study to understand if the suite of techniques enables students to generate a large quantity of diverse concepts and if the suite enhances the creativity of the students. Our approach is to pre-survey students regarding a self-assessment of their creativity using Gough‟s list of creativity descriptors. A control and experimental group of student design teams across disciplines and class level are then asked to develop as many concepts as possible for their course design projects. The control group only executes a single and well-known method from the suite of concept generation techniques, whereas the experimental group employs the entire suite of techniques. The total number of concepts developed by the teams is evaluated, documenting the number of concepts per ideation technique. The teams are also asked to complete a post-creativity survey. The assessment results from this study show a clear and statistically valid enhancement of the students‟ creativity, a higher quantity of concepts generated from the suite of techniques, and appreciation of atypical techniques such the principles of historical innovators.