Investigating the innovation capabilities of undergraduate engineering students
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This thesis describes a method for measuring the innovation capabilities of mechanical engineering students and presents the results of a yearlong experiment. A review of relevant literature shows that it is unclear whether the innovation capabilities of engineering students increase or decrease over time. Experiments were conducted at two universities in which students were asked to redesign an everyday electromechanical product in a sketch-based concept generation activity. Student participants were also asked to complete a self-efficacy survey. Nearly one thousand concepts were generated from a combination of freshmen and seniors. The concepts were evaluated for originality, technical feasibility, and innovation characteristics by multiple raters. At both schools, the findings suggest that the senior-level engineering students are more creative than their freshman-level counterparts without sacrificing technical feasibility. Additionally, the seniors rated higher for originality at the end of the semester than they scored prior to taking their senior design class. These results suggest that the mechanical engineering curricula, and especially the senior-level Engineering Design courses, are having a positive effect on student creativity.