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Creativity and Innovation

This course is a one credit introduction to a variety of tools that help engineers develop solutions to problems that address multiple perspectives and encourage alternative points of view.  Engineers that can think "outside of the box" are not only highly sought after in industry, but, because of the global nature of business and intense international competition, engineering graduates need to develop the complex thinking skills required by today's industry.  And industry is responding! Twenty years ago, industry expected SDSMT graduates to have a solid grounding in engineering fundamentals.  While it is still true that engineering and science graduates need technical competency, the skill set is now only one of eleven or thirteen metrics used during the hiring/interview process (Caterpillar Metrics here). 

And it isn't just industry that is asking for these changes.  South Dakota was one of the first five states to join a consortium for curricular innovation for development of 21st Century Skills which places greater emphasis on creativity, innovation, and critical thinking.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) is raising the bar on research awards to ensure a more direct impact to student learning than in the past.   Accrediting bodies have implemented new policies and procedures as a mechanism to help promote innovation in the classroom that will help develop higher level thinking skills and value added opportunities for curriculum development.  As little as ten years ago, ABET simply required that engineering schools provided evidence that engineering students were learning material in required content areas.  Now, schools must determine what is that engineering graduates need know, how do we know that is what they need know and how we do know that they know it?  Sound different?  That's because it is!  In short, we ain't in Kansas anymore.  Industry is changing and it is the smart engineering / science student that recognizes these changes and prepares now for the market place of tomorrow. 

Still not convinced, maybe a short story will help.  A few years ago, I was out hiking in the backwoods of Glacier National park with Dr. Jensen.  After a short while we stumbled across a grizzly bear who was just as startled as we were.  She reared up in full length and let out a mighty roar showing us that she was fully prepared to protect both her cub and her food supply.  We didn't need a second warning.  Both Dr. Jensen and I took at full run down the mountain with the grizzly bear hot on our heels.  Suddenly, Dr. Jensen stopped to put on his sneakers.  Mortified, I yelled as I caught up to me.  Dr. Jensen, don't you know you can't outrun a grizzly bear?  To this he quickly finished the last lacing, starting running stride for stride with me, shot me a grin and replied, "I don't have to outrun the grizzly bear.  I only have to outrun you!"

Bottom line, this is the name of the game in industry.  Those that are able to do more with less, do it better, do it faster, and do it cheaper will survive.  Those that can not will fall by the wayside.  And industry is looking to their engineering and scientific workforce to help them do that.  Still not convinced?  Just take a look at the mainstream companies that are incorporating whole brain thinking and team development processes in their overall thinking these days (see Herrmann as one example).

Assignment:  To get a better sense of what we are talking about, read IE's Educational Philosophy.

 

 

Industrial Engineering Department, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Rapid City, SD  57701