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A Module to Introduce the Entrepreneurial Mindset into Thermodynamics – A Core Mechanical Engineering Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division – Entrepreneurship Education in New Contexts

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.69.1 - 26.69.12



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Paper Authors


Jennifer A. Mallory Western New England University

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Dr. Mallory joined Western New England University after earning her Ph.D. from Purdue University in August 2012. Dr. Mallory’s current teaching interests include integrating problem- and project-based learning into core mechanical engineering courses to enhance student learning and motivation. She is currently the primary instructor for the Thermodynamics I and II courses in Mechanical Engineering. Her research interests are in engineering education and spray physics.

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A Module to Introduce the Entrepreneurial Mindset into Thermodynamics - a Core Mechanical Engineering CoursePart of the key tenant of engineering education is to provide the skills necessary to develop noveltechnical solutions to problems. Investigations into the most effective pedagogies thataccomplish this have been a focal point among institutions for years. However, if the U.S. is tomaintain its economic leadership position, innovation is the key, and with that adjustingengineering education to meet the needs of a global marketplace [1]. Unfortunately currenteducation practices are deficient in integrating known effective pedagogies with anentrepreneurial mindset. In other words, our current education practices lack instruction on howto incorporate the customers’ needs into those technical solutions.The work proposed here consists of an educational module designed for Thermodynamics (acore Mechanical Engineering course) that promotes entrepreneurially-minded problem-solvingby linking the application of theory with economic and environmental costs. It was designedspecifically to provide students with a hands-on approach to learning, while giving themexposure to integrating technical design and entrepreneurship. This was accomplished using aniterative design process of an electric-generating power plant that compared performance, cost,and environmental effects as key metrics. Additionally, a socio-political aspect is instilledthrough “governmental regulations” introduced throughout the course of the project. Students arebroken up into small groups with assigned roles (project manager, system integrator, financialanalyst, and public relations). These groups function as startup companies, competing againsteach other to develop the best power plant design that provides the most value for the customer.Figure 1 illustrates this complex, iterative design process.There are three main learning outcomes associated with the multi-dimensional, open-endedproject contained within this module. 1. Learning Outcome 1: Students will be able to apply thermodynamic principles to a multi- dimensional problem and generate technical solutions that maximize customer value. 2. Learning Outcome 2: Students will develop the ability to effectively communicate, both written and orally, with their team members and the customer. 3. Learning Outcome 3: Students will develop the skills to carry out an iterative design process.The module was implemented into the 2012-2013 (36 students) and 2013-2014 (66 students)academic years in Thermodynamics II. After execution, the effectiveness of the developededucational module in giving students the skills to integrate technical solutions with marketinterest, providing them an additional skill set to help them develop the entrepreneurial mindsetwas investigated. Students were assessed throughout the course of the project via differentmethods (bi-weekly progress reports, final project proposal, final presentation, team evaluation,and student surveys). It was clear this course module not only improves learning effectivenessand student engagement, but it also stimulates the entrepreneurial mindset within the students.References[1] National Academy of Engineering (NAE) report in 2004, “The Engineer of 2020: Vision of Engineering in the New Century,”[2] Chickering, A. W., “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education,” The Wingspread Journal, 9(2), 1987. • Provides technical data:  Environmental effect  Performance  Regulatory shortfalls  Cost Manage/communicate Inspect Design power plant design intent design Power Plant Project Manager Government (Students) (Professor) Designers (Students) • Issues requirements & regulations • Communicates with Project Manager Figure 1: Overview of educational module for Thermodynamics

Mallory, J. A. (2015, June), A Module to Introduce the Entrepreneurial Mindset into Thermodynamics – A Core Mechanical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23410

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