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Entrepreneurial Engineering Education – A Research Experience for Undergraduates Focused on Entrepreneurship and Technical Innovation

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Daniel D. Burkey University of Connecticut

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Daniel Burkey is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He received his B.S. in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in 1998, and his M.S.C.E.P and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000 and 2003, respectively. His primary areas of interest are game-based education, engineering ethics, and process safety education.

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Hadi Bozorgmanesh University of Connecticut

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Professor of Practice, School of Engineering
A director with over 20 years of nonexecutive and executive board of director’s experience, with deep knowledge of enterprise and academic entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. Board of governance experience includes audit & risk management committees, finance and M&A committees, and executive compensation committees

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Manisha Srivastava SurePath Evaluations LLC

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Ms. Manisha Srivastava is the founder and president of SurePath Evaluations LLC. Her experience includes implementing program assessments at the federal level and serving as the principal evaluator on numerous, large-scale, federally funded programs. She has played a pivotal role in the development and successful funding of various programs, as recognized in comments from review panels.

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Randi Mendes University of Connecticut

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In this paper, we describe a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) focused on Entrepreneurship and Technical Innovation at an R1 research University in the Northeast. The summer of 2018 was the second year out of a three-year grant in which approximately 10 students participated in both a structured entrepreneurship program as well as a ten-week research program. Since entrepreneurship and technical innovation occurs in all disciplines, our REU program is somewhat unique in that it does not have a specific technical thrust. Instead, we solicited projects from faculty across all disciplines in the school of engineering, with the main criteria being that the projects should have some degree of commercializable potential. Our aim is to expose students to the process by which academic research can be translated into working prototypes, and eventually onto commercial products and start-up companies through the tech-transfer process. We have had a national recruiting effort with a focus on diversity, as well as local recruiting effort with the local community college (CC) network with a focus on providing CC students with authentic research opportunities.

The Entrepreneurial REU is led by two co-PIs, one of whom oversees the research portion of the program and deals with student recruitment and matching, logistics and planning, and assessment, and another co-PI who is the school’s entrepreneur-in-residence and professor-of-practice, has extensive experience in tech transfer and start-ups, and leads the structured entrepreneurship program. For the Summer 2018 program, topics included: Industry 4.0 and new ideas about innovation and entrepreneurship, leadership and emotional intelligence, an Idea Generation Workshop, impact of simulation and manufacturing in prototyping, opportunity assessment, business model generation and hypothesis testing, a trip to a major tech incubator, intellectual property (IP) and start-up legal structures, market size analysis, value proposition, elevator pitches, and startup management and cost control.

As part of the assessment of the program, an external evaluator has been retained to do extensive pre- and post-surveys of the student participants, with a focus on determining their level of knowledge with regards to technical entrepreneurship, as well as changes in their attitudes and level of comfort with entrepreneurship and their own interest and willingness to engage in entrepreneurial behavior in the future. In data from Year 1 of the program (summer 2017), student participants showed significant gains in their self-reported knowledge regarding the steps they would need to take to commercialize a product or start a business (11% very or moderately knowledgeable pre-program, to 88% very or moderately knowledgeable post-program), and also had significant gains in their confidence regarding the same (11% very or moderately confident pre-program, to 89% very or moderately confident post-program). Lastly, students in Year 1 reported an increase (from 0% pre- to 33%-post) in their interest in starting a business or self-employment immediately following their undergraduate degree, and interest in commercializing a product or starting a business increased as well (33% very or extremely interested pre- to 66% very or extremely likely post-). Data from Year 2 of the program is currently being evaluated and will be included in the full paper, but this preliminary evaluation shows that the program is successful in increasing both student knowledge and confidence regarding entrepreneurship and technical innovation. A goal of the evaluation after the completion of the final year is the documentation of the entrepreneurship curriculum that can be disseminated broadly to other universities seeking to incorporate these topics into their programs.

Burkey, D. D., & Bozorgmanesh, H., & Srivastava, M., & Mendes, R. (2019, June), Entrepreneurial Engineering Education – A Research Experience for Undergraduates Focused on Entrepreneurship and Technical Innovation Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32754

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