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Developing Practice Fields for Interdisciplinary Design and Entrepreneurship Exposure

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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 – Epicenter Session

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.504.1 - 26.504.27



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Paper Authors


Gregory Wilson II University of Georgia

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I am a currently a University Innovation Fellow and PhD student at the University of Georgia. My field of study is in Learning, Design, and Technology in the College of Education with a specialization in engineering education. I have a background in computer science with a BS from Georgia Tech and a MS from Virginia Tech.

My research involves studying and developing informal learning environments that exposes business, engineering, art, technology, and science students to interdisciplinary collaboration, challenge-based learning, entrepreneurship, and design thinking.

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Developing practice fields for interdisciplinary design and entrepreneurship exposure To successfully bring students from engineering and other disciplines together to createinnovative solutions, a common language is needed to transcend the barriers of multidisciplinarycollaboration. Design thinking has great potential to be that common language. To experiencedesign thinking comprehensively, students must be exposed to repeated practice and immersiveexperiences simulating real world situations. Providing these experiences in higher education ischallenging due to the highly structured format of formal classes and students’ reluctance to takerisks due to grading assessments. Formal design classes have trouble providing this immersivedesign experience due to its highly structured format, and inability for students to take risks dueto grading assessment. Because the aforementioned barriers present in traditional curriculum donot restrict informal environments, they are well suited for design thinking activities. This study seeks to investigate how an informal design thinking practice field can preparestudents for the type of context they will encounter in the workplace. The context for this studywas created through the development of a make-a-thon. A make-a-thon involves collaborationacross silos for the purpose of creating a new product, experience, or business. Make-a-thons’event structure includes the presentation of a purpose or challenge, project development phase,project presentations, and judging of the projects. Engineering and computer science studentsmade up 43% of the participants at the event that also included students from business,art/design, and science. Teams were constructed to include at least two students fromengineering or science, one student from art or design, and one student from business or othermajors. During this event, there were popup classes on various topics related to design andentrepreneurship including mindfulness, business pitching, and prototyping. In lieu of lecturingabout design thinking, teams participated in a card game that assisted them in using design toolsand developing their design process. Alumni who worked for startups or started their ownventures provided coaching to the teams. Prizes were chosen that encouraged students to pursuetheir ideas after the event. These prizes included a funded trip to Silicon Valley to meet withentrepreneurs and venture capitalists, free membership to the local student incubator, and seedfunding. This event sought to not only attract students interested in entrepreneurship, but also“career focused students”, who are only likely to engage events that improve their employability,and “subject focused students”, who have deep disciplinary knowledge. Through surveys and interviews, the following insights were uncovered: a) participationin the event altered participants’ views of their majors and/or the majors of their teammates, b)students are inspired by the opportunity to interact and collaborate with students outside theirown discipline, c) students are motivated by working in a flexible physical space, d) studentsdesire more opportunities for this type of collaboration, and e) students reported that theyimproved their ability to use 21st century skills such as communication, entrepreneurship,collaboration, and creativity. The findings from this study begin to uncover what attributes of ashort-term informal design environment assist students in developing an innovation mindset.Several design principles emerged that can assist practitioners in developing a similar type ofevent. These principles will also help inform the next iteration of this educational design researchproject.

Wilson, G. (2015, June), Developing Practice Fields for Interdisciplinary Design and Entrepreneurship Exposure Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23843

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