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Assessing Student Design Work in Social Entrepreneurship Projects

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session


Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.217.1 - 23.217.13



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Paper Authors


Lindsey Anne Nelson Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Lindsey Nelson is a PhD student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her work centers upon helping engineering students connect meaningfully with global problems. She received her BS in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University and her MA in Poverty and Development from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Her research interests include engineering design for poverty alleviation, sustainable design, the public’s understanding of engineering, poverty mitigation, student-centered engineering curricula, global participation, engineering design methodologies, real-world prototyping activities, and material culture. Her teaching interests include engineering design, authentic assessment, student advising, and K-12 outreach. Lindsey has worked with elementary, middle school, high school, and undergraduate students in formal and informal settings. She strives to develop professionally as a teacher, implementing best practices informed by rigorous research.

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Helping People Living in Poverty? Understanding Factors Motivating Social EntrepreneurshipAbstractIncreasingly, engineering educators look to increase the social relevance of engineering designactivities. The emergence of social businesses has sparked interest in creating programs thatteach engineers about social entrepreneurship. Social businesses are viable business ventureswhere businesses adopt a social mission. Some strategists view social businesses as ways tocapture market share in countries that have a large emerging consumer class, such as India andBrazil. These strategists speak of finding “the fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” and targetconsumers earning less than 4USD/day. Other strategists view social businesses as directpathways for poverty alleviation. These strategists contend that businesses focused on meetingpeople’s needs can create a world without poverty. The purpose of this paper is to ask howengineering education programs teaching social entrepreneurship construct definitions of socialentrepreneurship to motivate students.This paper asks the following questions: 1) What do engineering educators define social entrepreneurship? 2) How do emerging social businesses explain the organization’s motivations? 3) How have these definitions and motivations shifted over time?This paper uses multimodal discourse analysis to explore how different business strategies affectengineering education programs teaching social entrepreneurship. Multimodal discourse analysisallows researchers to connect rhetoric used in problem-definition to the real-world businessactivities of organizations. The researcher selected two distinct engineering education programsteaching social entrepreneurship in the United States to highlight as case studies. Both programshave existed for more than five years, making it possible to explore how discourse within theprogram has shifted over time.The results of this research can inform student recruitment, program design, and potentialorganizational partnerships. Preliminary results indicate that engineering programs began byemphasizing high-volume products geared towards meeting basic needs. Later, engineeringprograms teaching social entrepreneurship began to emphasize capturing market share inemerging consumer markets. Although data analysis is continuing, these engineering programsdo not appear to require students to think deeply about the nature of poverty itself.

Nelson, L. A. (2013, June), Assessing Student Design Work in Social Entrepreneurship Projects Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19231

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