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ENGR305: Fundamentals of Innovation Theory and Practice

The foundational course for the Minor in Innovation and Transformational Change is ENGR 305: Fundamentals of Innovation Theory and Practice, taught by Professor Joe Sinfield, the Director of the Innovation and Leadership Studies Program. This 3 credit course introduces you to the fundamental patterns and methods of innovation through the study and application of emerging innovation techniques that address technological, economic, and societal challenges. You will join a cross-disciplinary team to design solutions to a series of socio-technical challenges, in an experiential learning setting, addressing the full breadth of functional, social, and emotional factors that shape use and adoption of your solution. Through case discussions of historical and contemporary innovations, you will learn how to identify opportunities and design, test, and iterate solutions. By the end of the course, you will understand and effectively use techniques from many fields, such as business, design, problem-solving, engineering, and social sciences.

Download the syllabus for ENGR305


ENGR490: Breakthrough Thinking for Complex Challenges

Breakthrough Thinking for Complex Challenges is a 3-credit, experiential learning course which is typically taken in the final year of the Minor in Innovation and Transformational Change. In this course, you have the opportunity to reflect on the collection of courses that you have pursued for the Minor and selectively apply key learning from these experiences to a real-world challenge in an action-oriented group problem solving setting. The course focuses on developing solutions to major challenges - often referred to as complex problems, grand challenges, or wicked problems.  These categories of problems require solutions that span technical, economic, social, and cultural domains and thus impede approaches derived from only one perspective.  This course will enable you to apply methods from varying fields and integrate differing ways of thinking to frame major challenges and design and advance holistic solutions.  You will have the opportunity to engage in problem exploration and participatory design in close partnership with an external organization.  This experience will help you put your knowledge into practice and develop adaptive expertise.  Conceived solutions must incorporate not only means to address technical challenges, but also aspects of stakeholder education and awareness, cultural adoption, resource availability and access, economic and operational sustainability, and governance. Collectively, co-designing holistic solutions inclusive of all of the aforementioned components, in collaboration with involved stakeholders, will help you build critical awareness and skills consistent with the College’s vision to prepare Purdue engineers for leadership roles in the 21st century.

Course projects vary year-to-year depending upon the portfolio of needs on- and off-campus that are being addressed more broadly in the Innovation and Leadership Studies Program. The course is typically offered in the Spring semester.  Enquire at to learn more about the focal problem of the course this year.

Download the syllabus for ENGR490

Past Project Case Example: Providing Potable Water in the Rural Dominican Republic

Almost 800 million people world-wide lack access to clean water. Students in the pilot of the Innovation Practicum addressed this problem holistically in rural Dominican Republic by partnering with students in another course at Purdue, CE 597: Water Supply in Developing Countries. For two semesters, students utilized systematic innovation methods and techniques to: 



Understand the comprehensive set of issues that define the success of any water system


Uncover hidden assumptions in current and prior attempts to provide potable water to those in need



Map complex relationships among community members, local and national organizations, and the forces that shape the acquisition, delivery, perception, and awareness of water and sanitation



Identify potential partnerships and conflicts in the water provision ecosystem based on stakeholders' motivations



Document circumstances specific to rural Dominican Republic that would affect the solution, such as intermittent electricity, significant wealth disparity among residents, and the cultural importance of extended family



Integrate solution components into comprehensive, system-level solutions that simultaneously address all key issues across technical, economic, social, and cultural domains

These system-level solutions are now ready for rapid in-field testing, refinement, and eventual implementation.