Problem solving and creativity in engineering: conclusions of a three year project involving reusable learning objects and robots

The necessity for creative problem solving skills within the sciences and engineering are highlighted in benchmark and policy statements as essential abilities. None of these statements, however, offer any guidance on how these skills might be fostered, let alone ossessed
This paper presents findings from the second cycle of an action research project to develop a dedicated creative problem solving module for first year engineering undergraduates. In the module problem based learning (PBL) techniques have been used with Lego Mindstorm NXT robots to develop creative problem solving skills. The focus of the module has been on developing process skills as opposed to the simple methodical solving of routine problems. Process skills have been introduced and mediated by the use of reusable learning objects (RLOs) within a virtual learning environment (VLE). Separate RLOs have also been used to develop skills in using the robots.
The action research cycle has been informed by a parallel project involving interviews designed to explore the perceptions of students, academics and professional engineers of creative problem solving. Phenomenography has been used as the main research tool.
Student feedback through online questionnaires, focus groups, classroom-based observation and interviews indicates that the module, and its means of delivery, has proven successful in improving creative problem solving skills. It also highlights the value of developing process skills within a practical and motivational environment.

¬© The authors. Article first published in the ‘Engineering Education: Journal of the Higher Education Academy Engineering Subject Centre’, V. 5, n. 2 (2010), as open access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License //

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