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New IEEE-USA E-Book Provides Creativity Challenges for the Classroom

By Paul Lief Rosengren

In his new book, Creativity – Our Valuable Lifelong Skill – Volume 3: Creativity Challenges, Harry T. Roman defines a Polymath as someone “who uses information from several fields of study to be a creative problem solver.” The two key components of Polymaths are not being a siloed learner; and applying a broad range of knowledge to their thinking. Roman focuses on “polymathism,” because he feels it is critical to unleash creative thinking.

He writes that polymathism helps generate:

  • improved question-asking
  • integrated thinking and analysis
  • a well-rounded education
  • development of important lifelong skills

Roman writes, “Polymaths always begin with intriguing questions reflecting their wide-ranging experiences, as they think both vertically and laterally, through the problems at hand.”

He suggests that teachers introduce this concept to students by leading discussions on such questions as:

  • Who in history do you think had polymathic characteristics, and why?
  • What women inventors and innovators would you consider polymathic?
  • How can teachers’ ongoing education make them more polymathic?

After urging readers to develop and apply broad knowledge to solve problems, Roman lays out design challenges teachers can use with their students to foster this skill. He urges teachers (no matter what the subject) to think broadly, as they guide their students to solutions. For instance, when brainstorming a new product, Roman suggests not only examining if the product will accomplish the desired task (and perhaps also exploring if will it be profitable); but he also encourages students to consider such areas as safety, or marketing issues, legal implications — and end-of-life recycling for products and/or components,

To close his book, Roman provides close to two dozen challenges teachers can use to foster creativity in their classroom discussions. As in his other books, the challenges Roman gives encourages the students to be problem-solvers — in their schools, their communities, and the world-at-large.  His challenges include:

  • When a neighbor decides to upgrade the windows in his home, how might you repurpose or reuse the discarded ones?
  • What could you use to protect young, fragile vegetable plant stems from insects?
  • How might you remove a ping pong ball accidentally dropped down a six-foot tube?
  • How might you communicate with neighbors, if all telephones and other electronic devices became inoperable?
  • What ways might an empty urban office building be repurposed?
  • If you were to teach a new course on creativity:
    • What would you teach?
    • How would you teach it?
    • What would the grading criteria be?
  • If a railroad company donated 10 railroad boxcars to your school, how would you suggest they be used?

Creativity – Our Valuable Lifelong Skill – Volume 3: Creativity Challenges is the third and final book in Harry Roman’s Creativity series. The first focused on the basics of creativity; and the second, on spurring creativity in the classroom. All three books are available for free for all IEEE members at IEEE-USA’s shop or for $2.99 for non-members.

Harry T. Roman holds 12 U.S. patents. He has received numerous engineering, invention and teaching awards; and he has published more than 550 scientific papers, articles and books. Roman was named a Distinguished Technology Educator by New Jersey Technology Education and Engineering Association. IEEE has honored him with a Meritorious Achievement Award for developing continuing education products for IEEE members — as well as with an Outstanding Engineer award. Throughout his engineering career, Roman has worked with schools, bringing the excitement of real-world problem solving to the classroom.

Paul Lief Rosengren

Paul is the coauthor of In the Time of Covid: One Hospital's Struggles and Triumphs. He worked for more than three decades in corporate communications at NBC, PSE&G, BD and in state government. He has a Master’s in Public Policy from The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard; and an undergraduate degree in political science from Dickinson College.

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