Best Practices for Cultivating Innovative Thinking Skills in Innovation Competitions and Programs

Abdullah Konak, Sadan Kulturel-Konak, David R. Schneider, Khanjan Mehta

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Engineering and computing education have always embraced student Innovation Competitions and Programs (ICPs), such as design challenges, hackathons, startup competitions, and boot camps. These programs are typically organized to increase interest in STEM fields, achieve the broader objective of forming well-rounded engineers and encourage students to bring their innovative ideas into real life. In addition, all ICPs also aim to advance students' innovative thinking skills. With the increased focus on entrepreneurship and innovation in STEM programs, many higher education institutions now organize some form of ICPs. This increased popularity of ICPs bears the questions of (i) whether ICPs achieve their intended objectives, (ii) what program components are most effective, and (iii) how to design ICPs for recruiting diverse student groups. Although these questions are highly relevant to advancing the educational benefits of ICPs, the literature lacks holistic studies focusing on the best practices of ICPs. In this paper, we present the findings of a qualitative research study to investigate ICP types and attributes that make the most impact on fostering an innovation mindset. We interviewed the organizers of ICPs to understand their objectives for organizing their events and rationales for specific program elements. Besides, we asked questions about how they promote their events, the best ways to reach out to students, team selection and forming, their assessment and judging procedures, during and after competition support, and the best practices and challenges. These interview scripts were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using qualitative data analysis software. An analysis of extracted thematic concepts was performed to identify the best practices and strategies that ICP organizers utilize to increase the Impact of their programs. The paper presents the preliminary results of this thematic analysis of the codes. Overall, findings suggest that incorporating more entrepreneurial elements, innovation training in ICPs, and effective mentoring may improve the learning outcomes related to innovative thinking skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2023 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2023 - Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9798350336429
StatePublished - 2023
Event53rd IEEE ASEE Frontiers in Education International Conference, FIE 2023 - College Station, United States
Duration: Oct 18 2023Oct 21 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Conference53rd IEEE ASEE Frontiers in Education International Conference, FIE 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCollege Station

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications

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