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If you can invent a second wheel, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, do you?

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

“The guy who invented the first wheel must have been an idiot. The guy who invented the other three was a genius”

Two wheels

This quote by Sid Caesar illustrates that (scientific) discoveries in technology need further development to raise their Technical Readiness Level (TRL) before it is ready for the industrial or consumer market. The quote underlines that it is often more effective and efficient to build upon available knowledge and combine available prototypes that have demonstrated their performance, i.e. inventing the other three wheels, than inventing new concepts from scratch, i.e. reinventing the wheel.

I know from personal experience in engineering education, we are keen in reinventing wheels. Often have we already the solution in mind before we have a full understanding of the problem. Which for instance leads to technocratic solutions for problems in study or teaching cultures that are not solvable by such solutions alone. I do not pretend I can change this “tradition” of working with this single blog post.

The wheels we already have in house: the Innovation Map

But I can show you what wheels we already have in house. It may be much better to use one of these wheels that does the job for 80% and has already a proof of evidence, and tailor that wheel to meet 100% of your needs. It enables you to invent the second wheel and stay away from reinventing the wheel. For this you need to know which wheel prototypes are already there.

The 4TU.Centre for Engineering Education, a collaboration between TU Delft, TU Eindhoven, University Twente and Wageningen University & Research about innovating engineering education for tomorrow’s engineer, have made an online map of more than 100 innovations in engineering education (status 11 May 2017). They have been developed by instructors, lecturers, tutors or researchers at the four research-intensive Dutch universities of technology.  In this so-called “Innovation Map” we have subdivided them in six categories of education innovation.

Screen print of Innovation Map

To pique your interest I give you some titles in the map:

  1. “A pressure cooker – coaching framework for teaching soft skills in an engineering master’s programme”;

  2. “How to utilize diversity for Excellence?”;

  3. “Multidisciplinary course assessment with multiple assessors”;

  4. “Underpinned scenarios and good practices for teacher coaching”;

  5. “Boosting the Activity of Students In Contact hours”;

  6. “Knowledge clips in the flipped classroom setting”;

  7. “Blended learning in Technology Entrepreneurship”;

  8. “Stimulating students to ask feedback”;

  9. “Mind the Gap! Career compass”;

  10. “Knowledge clips in the flipped classroom setting”.

Currently Interdisciplinary education has 25 entries; Blended learning & virtual labs 35; Dealing with diversity 26; Coaching engineering students 35; Sustainable and active education 62 and Future engineering skills 21. You can access, search and filter the innovations by key words. The Innovation Map gives you direct access to all tools, papers, tips and tricks, presentations, background information and the  coordinates of the colleague who knows the details and is willing to give you further advice.

We offer our help to share your knowledge and experiences

The Innovation Map is not one-way traffic. It also gives you the opportunity to inform colleagues about your  innovations. What we need is material that makes the innovation transferable, and evidence about the impact of the development. Please feel  free to contact your local coordinator here, and help enhancing engineering education.


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