“So you want me to make goofy noises and motions in a group of serious, non-smiling engineering students? First thoughts? Ugh. I’m silly and very open at home and amongst people who really know me, but when it comes to strangers, classmates and coursework, it’s all business. This exercise showed me I’m afraid to step out and let go around people who aren’t in my inner circle of trust. This exercise also showed me that there’s no reason I can’t be myself. There’s no rule I must be straight faced and closed off at all times. Everyone else seemed to be just as worried about the exercise as I. There is no rule that states you cannot be an excellent engineer if you step outside the traditional engineering box.”
--Bioengineering capstone student
Why Do Engineers Need Creativity Training?
Joseph Berk, who teaches engineering at California State Polytechnic University, notes the belief that “engineers are among the most creative people on the planet”—but points out that, alas, they’re really not. Human creativity is at its peak when we are about 5 years old, but 98% of that is gone by the time we finish high school. We are “conditioned” into conformity.
While technological innovation generates a nation’s economic growth, rapid technological change in the twenty-first century brings continuous new problems. Even though employers want engineering graduates to create and innovate, there has been a nationwide failure to integrate creative thinking into the curriculum of up-and-coming engineers. Traditional methods for teaching engineering design courses do not typically promote creativity and students complain about loss of excitement, curiosity, and passion in engineering classrooms
Dr. Burgoyne was approached by Dr. Ferris Pfeiffer, Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering, to create a course in creativity for the BE4980 class. Not only was theatre-based creativity instruction embedded in the course; it was also researched to measure the impact of the pilot training projects. Based on the findings, the team was awarded Mizzou Advantage grants to continue developing and evaluating the creativity training in BE4980; results were similar and continued to improve, convincing the Bioengineering department of its efficacy.