Problem-solving-in-engineering-creativity-estimation-and-critical-thinking-are-essential-skills.pdf

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Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & ExpositionCopyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering EducationSession 3147Problem Solving in Engineering Technology:Creativity, estimation and critical thinking are essential skillsBarry M. Lunt, C. Richard G. HelpsElectronics Engineering TechnologyBrigham Young UniversityThe process of design is basically a problem-solving process, and consists of the following steps:1) develop functional specifications; 2) develop the concept design; 3) generate designalternatives; 4) select and model the best alternatives; and 5) test and verify the design.1Becausethe process of design is a main focus of most 4-year programs in engineering technology, it isessential that students be taught the skills that will make them proficient in design. Three keyskills which are essential are creativity, estimating, and critical thinking.The ability to think creatively is the skill that allows the designer to step ahead beyond whatalready exists, and to envision what does not yet exist. It is particularly useful in steps 1, 2, 3,and 5 of the design process outlined above. The ability to estimate allows the designer to lookahead to assess feasibility, to look back to verify assumptions and calculations, and to around tokeep one’s feet on the ground during the design process. It is very useful at all steps of the designprocess. And lastly, the ability to think critically allows the designer to move through the designprocess step by step, while checking the intermediate results for validity and applicability. It isessential in all the preceding design steps.Students enrolling in engineering technology (ET) quickly acquire a toolbox of ideas,knowledge, and thinking skills.The thinking skills they acquire should be among the sharpest,most versatile, and most oft-used tools in their toolbox. The degree to which students aresuccessful in building and applying these tools is dependent on the degree to which wespecifically teach them and apply them in our curriculum. Because the manner in which theyintegrate all these tools into their ET experience has a significant effect on the success of theircareer and university experience, we believe there should be a greater focus on these threespecific thinking skills.CreativityTechnical students, particularly Engineering Technology students, are expected to create anumber of devices or systems during their student career, and probably many more after theyhave graduated. They are also often called on to generate multiple solutions to a single need orproblem. In these activities, they can benefit greatly from learning how to think creatively. “Inthe competitive marketplace, [creativity is] a crucial asset in the bid to win the race to buildbetter machines, decrease product delivery times, and anticipate the needs of futuregenerations.”2Additionally, “Engineers and technologists bring mathematics and science to bearPage 6.808.1

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