Adams, J. P., Kaczmarczyk, S., Picton, P. and Demian, P. (2010) Problem solving and creativity in engineering: conclusions of a three year project involving reusable learning objects and robots. Paper presented to: Engineering Education 2010 (EE 2010), Aston University, Birmingham, England, 06-08 July 2010. (Unpublished)
Adams, J. P., Kaczmarczyk, S., Picton, P. and Demian, P.
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 assessed. 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 on 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 at using the robots. The action research cycle has been informed by a parallel project involving interviews considering the perceptions of students, academics and professional engineers to creative problem solving. Phenomenography has been used as the main research tool. Student feedback through on-line 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