Increased adoption of wind-energy technology helps address climate change, but also requires disposition of retired wind-turbine blades that are not easily recycled. This pressing environmental problem is used as the prompt in a creativity study, where participants are asked to identify potential reuses in a Wind-turbine-blade Repurposing Task (WRT). In past iterations of this study, participants consistently struggled with correctly incorporating the large physical size of wind-turbine blades in their reuse concepts. The Alternate Uses Task (AUT) is an established measure of creativity and asks participants to identify uses for much smaller objects like bricks and paper clips. The current work explored whether an AUT can be adapted as an intervention to help overcome the scale challenge in the WRT.
Students in a fourth-year undergraduate engineering design course (N = 28) underwent both of two conditions, a scaled-AUT intervention and a control, typical AUT before the WRT. AUT fluency and flexibility (number and categories of ideas) were significantly lower in the scaled AUT than the typical AUT. This result supports that object scale more than unfamiliarity is the main WRT challenge, since the AUT objects were relatively common. Notably, correctly scaled WRT concepts significantly increased after the scaled AUT, supporting the intervention’s effectiveness. Finally, the WRT is proposed as a standard design-study task whose solutions help address a real-world problem.