Video feature: Keller Center class focuses on creativity, innovation, design
While walking through the H wing of the Engineering Quadrangle this past spring, you may have passed a classroom with 14 students jumping up and down, stretching, playing mind games on whiteboards and drinking coffee. These activities occurred at the start of each class, and they were the warm-up for what was to come.
The Keller Center at Princeton University offered the new class ERG 392, "Creativity, Innovation and Design," which focuses on fostering creativity and encouraged different ways of thinking about real-world problems. Open to undergraduates across all departments, the course is taught by Derek Lidow, a professional specialist and lecturer in electrical engineering and the Keller Center. The course, taught for the first time this spring, will be offered again next spring.
"The University tends to focus students on convergent thinking, how to come up with the best answer, and so students don't get a chance to practice divergent thinking, coming up with all sorts of possible solutions," Lidow said. "That's what this class is really good at."
The classroom was redesigned specifically for Lidow's class. It has the capability to be reconfigured at any moment during class to encourage a flow of new ideas.
Upon entering the room, students were welcomed into an open space without desks or chairs. Folded chairs were stored under the classroom windows, and soft cushion seats were stacked neatly by the back wall. Giant whiteboards on wheels could be moved anywhere at any time, and a wall of shelves held various supplies for prototyping. A fresh pot of coffee and an ample supply of cookies and snacks were provided by Lidow and graduate students who assisted with the course.
The students' newly cultivated creativity was put to the test in the final design project. The class was broken up into groups that were asked to design products or services that would mitigate high-risk drinking on Princeton's campus. The groups came up with designs ranging from a new way to provide alcohol education through the online sharing of personal experiences to alcohol-regulated gatherings and even a new cup design that accurately shows how much it contains. After their presentations, the groups were encouraged to continue perfecting the ideas in hopes of one day implementing the campaigns across campus.
"Creativity usually isn't something you think you can learn, and so this class is unique in that it gives you the tools and the opportunities to practice it," said Yolanda Yeh, an electrical engineering major in the Class of 2015. "A lot of what I'm taking away is being really creatively conscious, thinking about applying creativity to different places and also the specific techniques you use to develop empathy for your users or to act on your feedback."