"We are actually having fun! This is the University of Michigan. We're here
to learn and we're here to do serious things. But play, I think, is the
foundation for most creativity." This is how
Prof. Herb Winful, professor of Optics in the
Department of Electrical Engineering
and Computer Science, talks about the course "UARTS2 250: Creative
Process," a new course that brings together faculty from Art, Architecture,
Engineering, and Music - all found on North Campus at the University of
A creative thought can come in a flash. Though it often requires a long
process to perfect, the creative process can be seen at every stage.
"Developing an idea can be as creative and adventurous as coming up with the
idea in the first place," says Winful.
recent video made by the Michigan Daily will give a glimpse of the
faculty who teach the course, and the students who take it. Prof. Winful,
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and
John Nees, research scientist in ultrafast optics, were part of the
team of faculty that taught the course Winter term 2009.
"This is one of the most fun courses I've ever taught," said Prof. Winful.
Students were first shown the popular Youtube video, "Canon Rock,"
played by Funtwo (real name Jae-Hyun Lim, a computer science major) and discussed how engineers were involved at most
every stage of creating the video, and the perfect electric guitar.
This goes back even to Michael Faraday (1791-1867), who invented the
transformer and electrical generator as well as the principle of
electromagnetic induction which underlies the operation of the electric
and Nees showed students how to make the world's simplest motor, before
helping student teams develop engineering and artistic creations using the
PicoCricket invention kit (complete with standard electrical and computer engineering devices such as sensors, a motor board,
and a "beamer" to send programs from your computer to the PicoCricket).
Prof. Winful shares these tips for the creative engineer:
- Keep an idea notebook (ie, da Vinci)
- Expose yourself to ideas
- Be observant
- Look for symmetries
- Look for analogies
- Change your perspective
- Ask questions
- Seek beauty and simplicity (ie, Einstein)
- Be persistent
- Embrace failure ("I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways
that won't work," Thomas Edison)
- Make lemonade from lemons (ie, invention of post-it notes)
- Expect serendipity
- Take risks
- Seek improvements
The course has gone international, and is now part of the
Engineering's Study Abroad program as students head off to France for
the Spring 2009 course.
Creative Process in France