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Methods of Teaching TRIZ Principles Through an Example

Methods of Teaching TRIZ Principles Through an Example

| On 02, Aug 2002

Methods of Teaching TRIZ Principles Through an Example

Nelly Kozyreva, TRIZ teacher,
Elena Novitskaya, designer,

The Altshuller-formulated principles of resolving contradictions are the most popular TRIZ tool. How is it usually taught? The explanation of the tool gist is normally accompanied by examples from various, chiefly technical areas. A student must imagine the situation presented by a teacher (which implies the knowledge of peculiarities of various constructions from multiple branches of technology), “discern” the model of a problem and the model of its solving with the aid of a principle. This demands a very high level of abstract thinking of a student, the ability to focus on a topical problem and to easily switch over to a next problem, as well as other special thinking abilities which are not characteristic of all students.

How can we facilitate the understanding and mastering of a principle by a student? It would be useful to ease his analytical apparatus of comprehending a large number of example problems and to use the released efforts in a more useful direction. For this purpose, a single through example is very suitable. A student must focus on thorough understanding of an example only once. Then he only adds new facts to the formed system of notions.

But how can we find such an example? A through example must comply with some requirements:

  1. It must be equally effective for illustrating the maximal number of principles.

  2. The object used in the example must possess a potential for unlimited transformations.

  3. The patent fund for the selected object must be rich enough.

  4. The structure and the manner of operation of the object must be easy to understand.

  5. The example must be interesting for any category of students.

Which objects have a lucid structure and are familiar to everybody? Simple domestic appliances, simple toys, furniture, clothing and footwear, books and stationery. Toys are most likely to be the kindly soil. The main function of any toy is clear. It is to entertain. When toys and games are employed in the teaching process, they always create a favorable feeling. At TRIZ lessons, the matter of especial importance is to liberate consciousness, to get rid of the blinders of standard thinking. The state of conventional return to one’s childhood caused by a suggestion “let us play” hits off perfectly in this situation. The toys that suit our purposes best of all are so-called “motional” toys (whirligig, ball, and self-righting toy doll). Such toys are usually based on some physical phenomenon or, sometimes, on some very simple mechanical device. They are usually equally attractive both for children and for adults. Among simple toys, the richest patent material is devoted to the self-righting toy doll. The number of self-righting toy dolls of basically different design is very large. One can select the most interesting solutions from them.

The self-righting toy doll is known in multiple countries of the world under different names, for instance «Vanka-Vstanka» in Russian, «Darum» in Japan. The simplest self-righting toy doll is very easy to make: take a bar of lightweight material (for instance, wood) with a spherical base and attach a piece of lead to the base. The self-righting toy doll employs the principle of stable balance: its center of gravity is always below the center of swinging, that is why it is impossible to make such a doll «lie» without applying additional force. It immediately bobs up, takes a vertical position and starts swinging amusingly.

Fifty versions of a self-righting toy dolls were selected from the patent collection. In those patents, the dolls, while swinging, “draw” different geometrical figures, lie sidelong and stand on their heads, stretch their necks, bob their heads and flourish their arms, gleam, chirp and wink. In short, they do a lot of different amusing things.

(Fig. 1)

The analysis of the selected designs proved that the greatest number of patents fall on 10 inventive principles out of 40: segmentation, dynamization, spheroidicity, «matreshka» (nested doll), replacement of mechanical scheme, «a contrario» principle, asymmetry, change of color, pneumo- and hydroconstructions, change of physical and chemical parameters. This fact corresponds to the recent tendency to range examples by frequency of use Assessing The Accuracy Of The Contradiction Matrix For Recent Mechanical Inventions By: Darrell Mann); the list of 13 most frequently used principles by Nikolay Khomenko; the teaching game «How to Solve a Problem» by Gorovits method. For the initial stage of training, it is quite enough to introduce students to 10 principles.

Each principle and subprinciple is illustrated by several self-righting toy dolls. On the other hand, different elements of one and the same doll can illustrate several principles.

How is a lesson organized at which the principles are studied with the aid of self-righting toy dolls? A teacher shows pictures of the dolls and the drawings of their internal structure. Students practice the introduced principle by proposing new possibilities of its use for the same engineering solutions and by drawing schemes of their ideas on separate cards. This is a very important advantage of this method, because the principle is mastered by practicing immediately after it is presented to students. In addition this is done in a favorable atmosphere of free creative process and not in a stressful situation of search for a solution to an engineering problem.

The students can compare their own ideas with those already patented, and to evaluate them. The group has a patent collection for self-righting toy dolls at their disposal, where each design is drawn on a separate card. When an idea of a student coincides with a patented invention which is unfamiliar to him, his self-rating grows and a new impetus to a new search is given not only to him but also to all members of the group.

The practical use of the method gave an amazing and so far unexplainable result: each student, to whom some ten self-righting toy dolls were shown and the principles used for their creation were explained, starts inventing new dolls! Not infrequently the ideas proposed by students are wittier and more interesting than those of patented prototypes. The ideas of self-righting toy dolls come in showers. This occurs irrespective of age, sphere of interest, profession and engineering background of students.

For in-depth mastering of the principle, students are given a new task – to find a possibility to use the principle for improving technical objects that are close to the self-righting toy doll (other toys). Then tasks from more distant areas come – domestic appliances, pieces of furniture, car mechanisms.

Even if the new skills of students are not used later on in the technical sphere, they all the same do good. If a person is familiar with TRIZ, in particular with the principles, he can use them for solving social problems of his family, children or collective, for removing or, even better, for preventing conflicts.

After being introduced to a series of principles, the group may pass to the next TRIZ training stage – the study of the laws and trends of engineering systems evolution.

For this purpose, a «map of laws» has been developed. The map is a large-size table with stages and laws of systems evolution. After the teacher has explained which laws of systems evolution were discovered, the students fill «different storeys» of systems evolution stages with cards where they write down all engineering solutions they know – both patents and their own ideas. The students’ cards are of different color, so it is possible to immediately see who the author is. One can immediately see «white spots» on the filled table. The students who mastered the initial skills in TRIZ wonder what hinders them from filling those «white spots». Thus the mechanism of creative search and intellectual competition is triggered again.

To make the method more apprehensible and popular, the interactive game «Teach the Doll Bowing» is being developed. Besides Nelly Kozyreva, who is the author of this method and the main ideologist of the project, the team of developers includes Elena Novitskaya, designer, organizer of the project and the author of the game structure and doll appearances; Nikolay Shpakovsky, TRIZ consultant and project organizer; Andrey Mitasov, programmer, doll-animator and author of the main game concept – «teaching through teaching» (co-author of Tatyana Mitasova).

The game environment is a virtual school-studio, where dolls are taught different bows and motions (at the moment, the game is designed for East Asia region where a considerable accent is put on the culture of bowing).


A player performs the part of the doll trainer. At the beginning of the game, he visits the pavilions and classrooms of the studio to see how the already trained dolls (senior pupils) bow. The behavior of the dolls can be controlled with the illusion of reality – they response adequately to the cursor action. One may learn the structure of each doll in order to understand its principle of operation.

(Fig. 3)

Then the new trainer himself gets down to work. The dolls may be trained in accordance with the obtained orders (topical training) or in accordance with one’s creative desires. The main thing is to enjoy the process.

The beginners are ordinary dolls of a simple structure – a head and a body with a displaced center of gravity. The trainer has to invent and to assemble a doll so that its bows and motions are different from the known ones, to endue the doll with a character, to work as a stylist – to choose make-up, a hairdo, and a costume. For this purpose, there is a studio with a huge depository of various products. All changes are immediately reflected on the doll’s behavior. The creative stages may be saved so that one can go back to them again. The newly created dolls remain in the classrooms and you can compare the ideas and to see which is better – yours or patented samples.

The next level of the game introduces you to the laws of engineering systems development by using the same example of self-righting toy dolls. Besides, by studying the principle of operation of such dolls your child will get acquainted with some physical phenomena.

The developed prototype of the game illustrates the basic idea and some play possibilities, enables you to control the sample doll behavior. The prototype contains 12 self-righting toy dolls that illustrate five principles.


The game prototype in swf format. (new window)
vankistudio1.swf (183 KB)

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