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Theory of Inventive Problem Solving Pedagogy in Engineering Education, Part I

Theory of Inventive Problem Solving Pedagogy in Engineering Education,  Part I

| On 18, Nov 1998

Timothy G. Clapp, Ph.D., P.E.
College of Textiles
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695
(919) 515-6566

Michael S. Slocum, Ph.D.*
Principal and Chief Scientist, The Inventioneering Company
2820 Drake Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 641-0677
(* Adjunct Assistant Professor
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695)

The tasks of the educator are of supreme importance as the next generation of engineers relies on the training and skills imparted to equip them for the challenges in the ever-changing competitive industrial environment. It is with this in mind that the integration of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) into existing engineering curriculums was considered. TRIZ problem solving methods are especially suited for rapidly, identifying innovative solutions that are more robust and more economical than conventional problem solving methods [1] [2] [3[4] .

Since the introduction of TRIZ methods in the United States in 1991, only limited efforts have been undertaken to introduce TRIZ into the engineering academic curriculums [5] [6] . The authors sought to develop a system for incorporating TRIZ into the Textile Engineering curriculum at NC State University in the Fall of 1998 [7] .

This paper addresses the first phase of the systematic integration of TRIZ into the Textile Engineering curriculum in a senior-level engineering design capstone course. An existing senior design class was selected by the authors to eliminate potential problems of adding a separate course, which would add additional credit hours to an already crowded curriculum. Most importantly, the integration enables the student to understand the proper perspective of this methodology in respect to other traditional engineering methods. TRIZ and the perception of it as a panacea is avoided and the coordination of the methodology with value engineering, robust design, Pugh concept selection, failure mode effects analysis, etc.,…, is clearly defined. Problems from industry assigned to teams of students provided scenarios for the application of the methodology as it was taught. The theory’s place in the concept generation phase as well as the problem resolution phase is obviated. Exercises that require the integration of the theory into existing design practices reduce the theory to practice and reinforce the power of the methodology. We have found these interrelations to be critical to the success of the introduction of the theory. The integration is indicated by the curriculum outlined in Table 1.0.

Table 1.0, Outline of Senior Design Curriculum


Syllabus, Pre-evaluation

Introduction to Engineering Design

Information Gathering (Library, Internet)

2 Industrial Problems Presented

Structure of the Design Process

Team Fundamentals


Understanding the Problem: QFD

Understanding the Problem: Process Flow Chart

Forming the Entrepreneurial Company


Defining the Technical Problem

Team Training Exercises


History of Innovation, Introduction to TRIZ

TRIZ Continued

Team TRIZ exercises


TRIZ Software: Problem Analysis Module

Ideal Solution Generation (Principle of Ideality)

Team Idea Generation (Brainstorming)


TRIZ Software: Generating Solutions

Evaluating Alternatives (Pugh Analysis)

Team Performance Checks


Proposal Preparation

Oral/Written Communication in Industry

Proposal Preparation


Team Presentation Preparation

Formal Presentation


Design Lecture-Detailed Designs

Presentation feedback

Anticipatory Failure Determination (AFD)

Application of AFD to Team Projects

Industrial Feedback


Business Ethics

Team Progress Review

Sensor Technologies


Team Progress Review

Relay Ladder Logic, PLC’s,

Special Individual Project (SIP)


SIP Lab Activity

SIP DUE, Team Activity Report Due


Design report/presentation Preparation

Design report/presentation Preparation


Design report/presentation Preparation


Exam Week-Presentation

The curriculum in Table 1.0 reflects the material that will be covered during the first half of the design engineering course. The lectures given and their respective durations are listed in Table 2.0.

Table 2.0, Lecture Outline

Lecture Sub-lecture(s) Duration Applicability
Introduction and Overview History of Innovation

Psychological Inertia


40 Principles

2 hours used these principles in senior project
Contradiction Matrix Theory Physical contradiction (PC)

Technical contradiction (TC)

TC-to-PC conversion

Separation principles (SP)

40 Principles and reversibility

39 Parameters

Contradiction matrix

2 hours used this theory to formulate problems associated with senior design project
Function Analysis Function analysis

Su-Field introduction

2 hours performed function analysis using TOPE 3.0 of senior design project
Introduction to Directed Evolution S-curve

Trends of Evolution

Maturity mapping

2 hours
Review of previous 4 lectures 2 hours
Anticipatory Failure Determination Failure Analysis

Failure Prediction

2 hours performed AFD on existing designs of senior project to eliminate and mitigate failure modes

The lectures were supplemented by assigning tasks designed to reinforce material presented in a format that was directly related to the engineering projects assigned the class. This series of lectures will be augmented by several additional series to complete the presentation of the basic body of TRIZ knowledge. The use of the theory will also be expanded from the concept development stage (the primary goal of the first half of the course) to the reduction to practice stage. Many insights are expected during this transition from theoretical application to experimental activity.

The reactions of the class were positive in the following senses: 1) questions were asked to elucidate portions of the theory that needed further elaboration, 2) many technical contradictions and physical contradictions were presented that were applicable to assigned design projects and discussions concerning proper framing were very active (real-world concerns were addressed), 3) the function analysis lecture was followed by the creation of a function model as a team (the synergy of the team coupled with the complications associated with function diagram creation were ideal for a thorough understanding of the processes involved), and 4) many side-bars were experienced after lecture completion for students who evidenced advanced curiosity. We consider these activities to be indicators of successful delivery. Table 3.0 indicates the performance increases in solution generation realized post lecture delivery. Table 4.0 indicates team performance on their senior projects in the areas of component reduction, cost reduction, number of solutions generated, and potential patents.

Table 3.0, Individual Student Survey



solution increase using TRIZ


solutions more innovative


TRIZ will be used in other fields by student


TRIZ relevant to project


used Ideal Final Result to improve design


Table 4.0, Team Project Performance

Component reduction Cost reduction Solutions generated potential patents
Group I, 6 students





Group II, 6 students





Group III, 7 students










In conclusion, Tables 3.0 and 4.0 reflect several important issues: student acceptance, student application (increase in number of innovative solutions, project component reduction, project cost reduction, and potential patents), and realization of relevancy. A number of the students have expressed interest in taking a course dedicated to TRIZ. Phase II of this project is comprised of detailed design of their respective (Groups I-III) projects. The usage of Anticipatory Failure Determination (failure prediction) will be presented in the next report. The detailed design activity will reveal additional problems that will be addressed using the material presented to date. These secondary problems will be reported on as well.


[1] Altshuller, G.S., Creativity as an Exact Science, Gordon & Breach Science Publishing House, 1984, New York

[2] Kamm, L.J., Real-World Engineering, IEEE Press, 1991, Piscataway, NY

[3] Terninko, J., Zusman, A., Zlotin, B., Systematic Innovation, St. Lucie Press, 1998, Boca Raton, FL

[4] Terninko, J., Zusman, A., Zlotin, B., Step-by-Step TRIZ: Creating Innovative Solution Concepts, Responsible Management Inc., 1996, Nottingham, NH

[5] Rivin, E., “Use of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) in Design Curriculum,” Innovations in Engineering Education, 1996 ABET Annual Meeting Proceedings, pp.161-164

[6] Fey, V., Rivin, E., Vertkin, I., “Application of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving to Design and Manufacturing Systems”, Annals of the CIRP, 1994, volume 43/1, pp. 107-110

[7] Clapp, T., “Integrating TRIZ-Based Methods into the Engineering Curriculum,” 1998 IMC Users Group Conference Proceedings