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Curiosity, Connection, Creating Value: Improving Service Learning by Applying the Entrepreneurial Mindset

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


John K. Estell Ohio Northern University

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John K. Estell is a Professor of Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Ohio Northern University. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his B.S.C.S.E. degree in computer science and engineering from The University of Toledo. His areas of research include simplifying the outcomes assessment process through use of performance vectors and evaluation heuristics, first-year engineering instruction, and the pedagogical aspects of writing computer games. John has held a variety of leadership positions, including currently serving as an ABET Commissioner and as Vice President of The Pledge of the Computing Professional; within ASEE, he previously served as Chair of the Computers in Education Division. He is a past recipient of Best Paper awards from the Computers in Education, First-Year Programs, and Design in Engineering Education Divisions, and has also been recognized for his contributions to the ABET Symposium. Dr. Estell is a Senior Member of IEEE, and a member of ACM, ASEE, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, Phi Kappa Phi, and Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

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David Reeping Ohio Northern University Orcid 16x16

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David Reeping is an undergraduate research assistant with a major in Engineering Education and a minor in Mathematics. He is a Choose Ohio First scholar inducted during the 2012-2013 school year and the recipient of the Remsburg Creativity Award for 2013 and The DeBow Freed Award for outstanding leadership as an undergraduate student (sophomore) in 2014. David is a member of the mathematics, education, and engineering honor societies: Kappa Mu Epsilon, Kappa Delta Pi, and Tau Beta Pi respectively. He has extensive experience in curriculum development in K-12 and develops material for the Technology Student Association's annual TEAMS competition. His research interests involve the analysis and refinement of the first year engineering experience, authentic projects and assessments, and P-12 engineering.

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Heather Sapp Ohio Northern University

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Prior research tested the hypothesis that teams of first-year programming students can gain some of the benefits associated with service learning by establishing a client relationship with a group directly involved with a service-learning project. This research was conducted via a term project assigned in a second semester introductory programming course at a private Midwest university. The purpose of the project was to develop an interactive software application that would complement a lesson plan written by education majors for conducting STEM educational outreach activities. A mixture of validated quantitative and qualitative methods taken from the community service literature was used to perform the assessment and validate the hypothesis. While the results were generally positive, the investigators uncovered several shortcomings, which included insufficient client-team interaction, unrealistic expectations regarding project scope, and an inability to develop an appropriate level of understanding of either client or customer needs. Given that the development of deliverables to a client constitutes an entrepreneurial activity, the investigators opted to use the entrepreneurial mindset as a framework to improve the learning environment associated with this term project. To facilitate the desired changes, both the clients and the programming teams were encouraged to embrace the attributes of the entrepreneurial mindset as stated in the KEEN Student Outcomes: curiosity, connection, and creating value.

In a departure from the norm, the clients were allowed to embrace curiosity by defining their own lesson plans within the constraint of implementing a STEM outreach activity for delivery to a targeted set of customers: fourth, fifth, or sixth grade students. The lesson plan also had to connect to the needs of the greater K-12 educational community by being appropriately grounded in the Common Core and/or NextGen Science standards. Additional connections were promoted through periodic meetings between the clients and their assigned programming teams, thereby allowing the clients opportunities to rein in the scope of their design according to feedback from the application development side. While the resultant lesson plans clearly created value for the teachers and students using them, additional value was created through the creation of single-point rubrics, which allowed the client to provide more informed feedback to the teams than that provided by the traditional analytical rubric format.

The teams also benefited from the application of the entrepreneurial mindset. It is definitely contrarian for students finishing up their first year of programming to be presented with a client to design for; this piqued the students’ curiosity, which strengthened their involvement with the project. Providing external connections in the form of clients and customers broke the teams out of the isolation commonly associated with introductory programming assignments; interactions included regular design meetings with the clients and a critical design review conducted by various stakeholders using a science fair type presentation format. Finally, the teams had the satisfaction of knowing that, if successful, their application would be used to help others as part of a lesson plan in a STEM outreach activity.

Assessment performed through a validated quantitative survey indicated that the application of the entrepreneurial mindset yielded positive change in all ten student attitude traits measured by the instrument when compared to the previous year’s results. Responses from a set of qualitative questions provided further evidence of the success of this approach.

Estell, J. K., & Reeping, D., & Sapp, H. (2016, June), Curiosity, Connection, Creating Value: Improving Service Learning by Applying the Entrepreneurial Mindset Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26621

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