NSF grant supports research to define creativity in engineering design

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In order to successfully solve problems, engineers must be creative. An inventive mindset is essential for them to design new products and services or improve upon those that have already been created. Engineers need to constantly innovate in order to continue to drive economic and societal successes. But, how can creativity be measured objectively? Researchers at Penn State and the University of Maryland will use a $399,999 grant from the National Science Foundation to evaluate how creative ideas in engineering design are gauged, in order to create a unified measurement system.

Scarlett Miller, associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering at Penn State, is the principal investigator (PI) of the two-year project, titled “Finding the [Ground] Truth: Improving the Validity and Reliability of Creativity Rating in Engineering Design.” Sam Hunter, associate professor of psychology at Penn State, serves as a co-PI on the project. Mark Fuge, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, also serves as a co-PI on the project.

Together, the three will work to develop a cohesive statistical framework for creativity metrics that includes a standardized methodology for comparing accuracy and precision of these metrics. Miller and Hunter will lead the creativity ratings and user studies aspects of the project at Penn State, while Fuge will lead the mathematical modeling and validation phases at the University of Maryland.

“One of the things that’s really important in engineering is to be creative and to come up with really creative ideas. Something that has perplexed the research community is coming up with methods to improve student and industry professionals’ creativity,” Miller said. “One of the ways we need to do that is to have an effective way of measuring creativity.”

To accomplish this, the team’s research will provide various design disciplines with unified ways to…

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