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Enhancing the Entrepreneurial Mindset of Freshman Engineers

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Student Entrepreneurial Skills and Mindset I

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.622.1 - 22.622.10



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Paper Authors


Kenneth Reid Ohio Northern University

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Ken Reid is the Director of Freshman Engineering and an Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Ohio Northern University. He was the seventh person in the U.S. to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. He is active in engineering within K-12, serving on the JETS Board of Directors and 10 years on the IEEE-USA Precollege Education Committee. He co-developed “The Tsunami Model Eliciting Activity” which was awarded Best Middle School Curriculum by the Engineering Education Service Center in 2009, and was named the Herbert F. Alter Chair of Engineering in 2010. His research interests include success in first-year engineering, introducing entrepreneurship into engineering and engineering in K-12.

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Daniel Michael Ferguson Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Daniel M. Ferguson is a graduate student in the Engineering Education Program at Purdue University. Prior to coming to Purdue he was Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Ohio Northern University. Before assuming that position he was Associate Director of the Inter-professional Studies Program and Senior Lecturer at Illinois Institute of Technology and involved in research in service learning, assessment processes and interventions aimed at improving learning objective attainment. Prior to his University assignments he was the Founder and CEO of The EDI Group, Ltd. and The EDI Group Canada, Ltd, independent professional services companies specializing in B2B electronic commerce and electronic data interchange. The EDI Group companies conducted market research, offered educational seminars and conferences and published The Journal of Electronic Commerce. He was also a Vice President at the First National Bank of Chicago, where he founded and managed the bank’s market leading professional Cash Management Consulting Group, initiated the bank’s non credit service product management organization and profit center profitability programs and was instrumental in the EDI/EFT payment system implemented by General Motors.

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Enhancing the Entrepreneurial Mindset of Freshman EngineersOn page 1 of Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the NewCentury cites the most critical task of engineering educators: “first and foremost, engineeringeducation must produce technically excellent and innovative graduates.” This report furtherstates “it is agreed that innovation is the key and engineering is essential to the task of helpingthe United States maintain its economic leadership and its share of high technology jobs.” Thegoal of our research is to benchmark and identify creativity and innovation skill sets in first-yearengineering students, which are included among necessary entrepreneurial skill sets, andunderstand how and why these skill sets change over their undergraduate matriculation.Our research will report on an initial study of the impact of first-year engineering courses on thechanges in entrepreneurial mindsets of first year engineering students. Entrepreneurial mindset inour study is operationally defined as a more growth orientated mindset versus a fixed orientatedmindset. This operational definition and the accompanying mindset measurement instrument wasdeveloped and validated by Carol Dweck of Stanford University. Based on Dweck‟s researchresults we assume a growth mindset is a reasonable surrogate for a student engineer‟s creativeand innovative or entrepreneurial skills.Mindset of student engineers are benchmarked at the beginning of the freshman year and thenagain at the end of the freshman year, soon after completion of a team based poverty alleviationfreshman capstone project. Two pre and post control samples of freshman engineer mindsets arebeing collected from similar sized engineering programs at comparable colleges in ourgeographic vicinity. Initial beginning-of-year testing results indicate a statistically significant tilttoward a fixed mindset in freshman engineering students compared to a growth mindset observedin an opportunity sample of freshman business students. We are tracking engineering studentsboth at the group and at the individual level, by major and by other statistically significantdemographic attributes.Our long-term principal research goal is to determine how and why engineering courseassignments affect a student engineer‟s entrepreneurial skill set. We hypothesize that a studentengineer‟s innovation skills are a learned behavior that is influenced by the student engineer„slearning experiences and course assignments. In order to study this phenomenon we must firstestablish a baseline of how student engineer mindsets change over time. Once we haveestablished this baseline of mindset data, we can then alter interventions to evaluate theirdifferentiated impact on mindset changes.If entrepreneurial skill is critical to the future economic success of our country then enhancingthis skill set is a critical component in engineering education.

Reid, K., & Ferguson, D. M. (2011, June), Enhancing the Entrepreneurial Mindset of Freshman Engineers Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17903

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