Monday, November 23, 2009

Creativity and Imagination in Engineering

It’s been a great week at LCS. On Wednesday, we hosted Dr. Patty Alvey, Distinguished Professor of Advertising at Southern Methodist University. Dr. Alvey, an expert in creative processes, met with faculty from across LCS and discussed the role of creativity and imagination in the engineering design curriculum. Dr. Alvey provided insights into the “ideation” process and how it can be incorporated more robustly in our first-year classes and capstone design courses. Dr. Julie Hasenwinkel discussed design problems tackled by seniors in Bioengineering such as a device capable of rigidly holding a test-skull in place while a calibrated weight is dropped on it. The goal is to assess damage around the orbits of the eye.

Dr. Sinead MacNamara described a new course entitled “Shell Structures: Speculative Design and Sensational Effects” which draws course content simultaneously from Engineering and Architecture.

Dr. Alvey and I also had a chance to speak to the “What’s the Big Idea” class, where undergraduates drawn from all disciplines at SU are taught the elements of entrepreneurship via real-world business start-ups. I heard lots of good ideas from the students about new products they are conceiving and designing, with the hope of eventually bringing them to market. I’d share those ideas with you on this blog, but I was sworn to secrecy!

On Friday, I joined faculty members from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at a gathering of researchers at Griffiss Institute located in Griffiss Business and Technology Park in nearby Rome, New York. Representatives from LCS, Clarkson, University of Buffalo, Rochester and other central New York universities, as well as researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (headquartered in Rome, NY) met to discuss the dynamic and growing technology base of central New York State.

The CNY region brings together a tremendous amount of engineering talent in software engineering, information security, computing architectures, and other areas of computer science. We spent much of the day discussing models for publicizing the area as an IT hub of commerce and innovation. It was exciting to be amongst so many thoughtful engineers and scientists, interested in working together and bringing national attention to our many scientific activities.

And finally, Saturday morning saw the Build ‘Em and Bust ‘Em contest at the Museum of Science and Technology (The MOST) in downtown Syracuse. Our own LCS students from the SU chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers helped to supervise the festivities. Over 250 kids, with parents in tow, brought their hand-made bridges, constructed using only 15 pieces of Balsa wood and glue, to the Museum for a wild morning of festivities and model-testing. We used real loading cells just as we use in the LCS structural engineering laboratories to test the amount of weight each bridge could carry. In between, the kids were able to try out the exhibits at the MOST, such as walking through a giant human heart or exploring the Kinetic Sculpture in "Technotown."