Minor in innovation to inspire creativity

Kyle Berg

A new minor in innovation will be available in fall 2011 through the colleges of Technology and Business Administration.

Darwin Boyd, assistant professor for the College of Technology and co-creator of the innovation minor, said the innovation minor is still in its preliminary stages. He said the paperwork for the minor should be completed during the fall 2010 semester.

Two of the classes utilize TRIZ, a Russian acronym referring to the theory of inventor’s problem solving. Donald Coates, associate professor for the College of Technology, also helped plan the innovation minor. He is already teaching TRIZ classes, and he will teach some of the other innovation classes when it kicks off.

“After I introduce people to things like brainstorming, I also give them a background in TRIZ because I feel that when you get to the tough problems you need a more powerful approach,” Coates said.

Coates said TRIZ is used by NASA, Boeing Co., Hewlett-Packard Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and a lot of the Fortune 500 companies, but they don’t talk about it very much because they don’t want to give out their secrets as to how they get things done.

“Innovation is like invention brought to market,” Coates explained. “It’s innovation when the public somehow finds out about it.”

Coates also described the U.S. Patent Office’s definition of innovation. An invention must be a machine, an article that can be manufactured such as a pair of Dungarees, a new composition of matter or a combination of all of those things. It also can’t be something that occurs in nature, it can’t be something that occurred before and it must have some psychological inertia.

Coates said that there’s a certain amount of psychological inertia to innovation. He used the Wright brothers as an example of the initial psychological resistance innovators receive. They probably first heard “Man was not meant to fly” when they were developing the airplane.

A new three-hour, junior-level technology course for the minor called Research Methods in Technology is also being developed.

Contact technology reporter Kyle Berg at [email protected].