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Converting Engineering Faculty To Educators Of Entrepreneurs

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Communication and Professional Skills in BME

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.407.1 - 12.407.8

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Paper Authors


John D. Gassert Milwaukee School of Engineering

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John D. Gassert is currently a Professor and Biomedical Engineering Program Director at Milwaukee School of Engineering. He received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in 1995 and his MS degree in Electrical Engineering in 1974 both from Marquette University. Gassert is an AIMBE Fellow, a Senior Member of the IEEE, and an ABET EAC program evaluator for Biomedical Engineering. He has developed and taught courses at both the graduate and undergraduate level in Biomedical Engineering, Medical Informatics, Perfusion, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Electrical Engineering Technology. Prior to arriving at MSOE, Gassert spent seventeen years in industry as a Business owner, a design engineer, a clinical engineer and a consultant.

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Jeffrey Blessing Milwaukee School of Engineering


Larry Schmedeman Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Larry Schmedeman is a Professor in the Rader School of Business at Milwaukee School of Engineering. He joined the faculty in 1982 and has taught a wide spectrum of courses ranging from economics, finance, management, international business, and business planning. He serves as the Program Director for the international business. Educational background: B.S. Education, Bachelor of Management, and MBA.

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Larry Fennigkoh Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Larry Fennigkoh is currently an Associate Professor in MSOE’s Biomedical Engineering program where he teaches courses in: physiology, medical instrumentation, biomedical engineering design, biomechanics, and biostatistics. He has been with MSOE full-time since 1998 and as an adjunct professor since 1986. Dr. Fennigkoh has over 20 years of hospital-based biomedical engineering experience in the design, use, maintenance, and management of healthcare technology. He also does forensic engineering, expert witness consulting on cases involving medical devices. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Wisconsin and board certified in clinical engineering.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Converting Engineering Faculty to Educators of Entrepreneurs


Including concepts of entrepreneurship in an engineering education is nothing new. It would be difficult to find a university that does not offer several courses or specific programs in entrepreneurship. However, finding large numbers of engineering programs that have fully incorporated entrepreneurship into their undergraduate engineering curricula is a far greater challenge. With the growth of outsourcing and global competition, it is imperative that engineering faculty be more than just educators of technically competent engineers. It is important that they be educators of entrepreneurs. This paper will describe a workshop that took initial steps to convince engineering faculty of the importance of educating engineering entrepreneurs and integrating entrepreneurship into an engineering curriculum. It will describe the workshop agenda, the assessment process used to measure if there was a change in faculty attitude, and the preliminary assessment results.


How often do engineering students add features to a design because they believe the features to be innovative or important, and not because the client asked for or needed the features? Are the students encouraged to include the innovations to stretch their design skills or are they discouraged because they are not part of the specifications? The answer is probably both. Engineering faculty members want, and need, their students to demonstrate that they, the students, have learned engineering skills; that they are able to design to meet a customer’s needs. Yet, should the students not be asked to stretch and explain how the client can capitalize on the new and innovative features; should the students be encouraged to be entrepreneurial? In general, engineering faculty members believe that teaching entrepreneurship is a sound idea; however, including it as an integral part of an engineering education is another story. How does one approach changing from educators of competent engineers, or what Carol Steiner refers to as “technipreneurs,” 1 to educators of engineering entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurship in an engineering education is nothing new. Durgin and Zwiep describe the entrepreneurial aspects of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) engineering programs dating back to 1865 2 and other engineering programs that integrate entrepreneurship into their curricula can be found.3,4 However, those programs are currently the exception, and finding an ABET-accredited engineering program that includes entrepreneurship as an integral part of its program educational objectives is unusual. A review of the program educational objectives of the 42 ABET-accredited biomedical engineering programs reveals that only two specifically include entrepreneurship as part of their program educational objectives. Only three others suggest its importance. Likely reasons for specifically excluding entrepreneurship from an engineering curriculum are the intensive requirements for mathematics, science, and engineering topics, and the need to meet university general education requirements.

On the surface, this appears to be a conundrum. Virtually any paper that describes an entrepreneur, describes her or him as someone who can formulate a problem, develop an idea

Gassert, J. D., & Blessing, J., & Schmedeman, L., & Fennigkoh, L. (2007, June), Converting Engineering Faculty To Educators Of Entrepreneurs Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii.

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