Teaching innovative thinking: Future directions

Daniel Raviv, Moshe Barak, Timothy J. Van Epps

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This paper focuses on enhancing innovative thinking skills of undergraduate engineering students. We present a "big picture" view on this subject and suggest specific ways for implementing it. The paper addresses the following three major questions: 1. What are the most relevant skills to become more innovative? 2. What kind of environment, curricula, and activities are essential to enhance these skills and stimulate innovation? 3. How can the identified environment, curricula, and activities be implemented and assessed? For engineers of the future, technical capability alone will no longer be a distinguishing feature. Clearly, a broader-based educational experience that teaches leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship is required in an environment that enhances and extends "non-traditional Engineering" curricula. The "Stay within the lines," "Do not break the crayon" and "Find the 'right' (and only) answer" attitudes are archaic. Instead, we must focus on thinking outside-the-box, taking risks, and being critical thinkers, creative and imaginative. Graduates must be prepared for a work environment that uses so-called "soft skills" and encourages trust and respect for individuals and ideas. The most relevant skills are clustered in four categories: (a) Problem solving, (b) "Big picture", (c) Personal, and (d) Social. Following these skill "list", we describe multiple hands-on activity-based innovation modules, each of which aims at specific skills, with focused objectives and outcomes. The modules are divided into ten categories, specifically: Community, Camps, Short Courses, Competitions, Projects, Challenges, Puzzles, Workshops, Meetings, Beyond Engineering, and Business and Industry. Each module is detailed and discussed. Implementation of a program that deals with the above skills has begun. The College of Engineering and Computer Science began the first cohort of Honors Scholars in the Innovation Leadership Honors Program in the Fall 2008 Semester. The program overlays the existing curricula and provides a select group of students an enhanced background and training in innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, and communication. The status of the program is reported here. The paper concludes with some additional suggestions for implementing and assessing the skills and activities.

Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2009
Event2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Austin, TX, United States
Duration: 14 Jun 200917 Jun 2009


Conference2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAustin, TX

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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