Technical Innovation covers the process of creating a new successful competitive product from invention to production and market introduction within a practical company related context. Typically education for this kind of complicated, open ended work requires mastering a wide range of knowledge-areas and a lot of hands-on training practice in projects and workshops. The combination of depth and width is symbolized by the “T-shape”. Well-known learning theories give a good rationale of the teaching approaches that were developed over the years and a confirmation of this approach, including the important role of the experienced tutor, is found in the study of excellent companies. Work of a “T-shaped” engineer in the technical innovation process bears many similarities to the ideal transformation process of a company, like Collins describes in his “Good to Great”. The processes have a very comparable open-ended character, a focus for essence and simple, elegant solutions, opportunities and inventions. Success seems to rely more on the right people and a concentrated shared-goal driven cooperation (“flow”), than on the right methods of work. Collins’ observations and conclusions, applied to the domain of engineering design education helps understanding the earlier reported 15 years success of the International Product Design Engineering (IPDE) course of the Hanze University Groningen, with its combination of lecturing, projects and workshops, with a high reality content and direct supervision. The IPDE-related “Open Dynamic Design” (ODD) project and the educational experiments showed similar observations. Essential is the committed experienced participation in real innovation projects and intensive workshops, lead by very experienced T-shaped supervisors/“masters”, having deep knowledge over a good part of technologies, entrepreneurial and/or design related issues and good understanding of interrelationship and consequences in the other fields. They also should have a track record on the methodologies of product innovation and product development. Like the Collins level-5 leaders, they should be able to be both creative and analytical, give the students freedom and control them at the appropriate moments. They power the theoretical most effective learning “circle” with focused introductions and assignments, their direct, knowledgeable and adequate feedback, and quiet help during contemplation. Then the workshops are really fun and effective. The Loughborough and Glasgow Design engineering courses, the new master course at the Innovation Centre of the University of Technology of Compiegne (UTC) and the one at the Hanze Institute for Technology — an upgrade from IPDE — are built on these insights. To safeguard the continuation of this approach, a pool of experienced and potential (home and guest) T-experts is founded together by the small group of universities and their industrial partners, working jointly in the workshops, projects and modules, training the trainers while training the students - in T-design.
Dedicated Workshops to Educate T-Shaped Engineers
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Gerson, PM, Taylor, AJ, & Ramond, B. "Dedicated Workshops to Educate T-Shaped Engineers." Proceedings of the ASME 2007 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition. Volume 7: Engineering Education and Professional Development. Seattle, Washington, USA. November 11–15, 2007. pp. 275-284. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/IMECE2007-41799
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