Inventive Engineering Class Broadens Perspective

Posted: April 29, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

Tomasz Arciszewski
Tomasz Arciszewski

Earlier this semester, Tomasz Arciszewski, professor in the Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering Department, hosted a collaborative lecture with the University of Maryland to further educate students on TRIZ, a tool that solves inventive problems.

TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is a technology that invents new engineering designs. It was initially developed in the mid-1940s in the Soviet Union by Genrich Altshuller when he theorized that universal and general engineering knowledge was the driving force behind all big patents. This universal engineering knowledge potentially can be used to develop cutting-edge inventions and help solve inventive problems.

Arciszewski teaches CEIE 411: Introduction to Design and Inventive Engineering. His class covers seven major stages of the design process and introduces several inventive problem-solving methods, including TRIZ.

“TRIZ is not properly understood, promoted, presented or taught. It is in this context that I wanted to teach students TRIZ as part of my course because it is a powerful method that is becoming better and better known,” says Arciszewski.

Arciszewski hosted a “TRIZ Feast” at Mason to build a new understanding of the complex technology. TRIZ expert and University of Maryland professor Daniel Raviv brought his class to Mason to engage in an interactive day of lectures and hands-on practice. Paul Seguin, TRIZ expert from the U.S. Army Corps Engineers’ Office of Strategic Planning, also joined the TRIZ Feast to share his knowledge and experience with the students.

“Dr. Raviv presented a lecture on one perspective of TRIZ and I presented another,” says Arciszewski. “What was interesting is that it introduced a new dynamic; we had students from two different universities, two professors and the U.S. Army Corps engineer. It was interesting to approach TRIZ from different experiences and perspectives.”

After the lectures, students had an opportunity to practice the TRIZ skills they learned. Seguin presented a real and complex problem regarding commercial water transportation along the upper Mississippi where a series of locks and dams, dating from the 1930s, allow efficient barge transportation, but also create certain environmental negatives.

The challenge was to devise alternative ways of moving commercial goods along the river without the unfortunate side effects. Students were divided into teams and used TRIZ concepts to come up with different potential solutions to the contradiction (identifying a problem’s “contradiction” being a key TRIZ principle).

Arciszewski says that the students found the TRIZ Feast to be beneficial because the collaboration allowed them to compare different approaches to TRIZ and resulted in a better understanding of the technology.

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