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Entrepreneurial-Minded Learning in a Freshman Mini-project in Computing

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Curricular Issues in Computing and Information Technology Programs II

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Danai Chasaki Villanova University

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Danai Chasaki received a Diploma in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece in 2006. She also received a M.S. and a Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2009 and 2012 respectively. In 2012, she joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Villanova University as an Assistant Professor. Before that, she was an Adjunct Instructor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a Research Assistant at the Network Systems Lab of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Danai’s current research interests include embedded system design, network security and cyber-physical systems. She is a member of the IEEE, the ACM and the ASEE. She is active as program committee member of some professional conferences including IEEE ICNP and ACM/IEEE ANCS.

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Entrepreneurial minded learning in a freshman mini-project in Computing Dr. Danai Chasaki, Villanova University, Villanova, PA, USA

Computing and Information Technology are among the fastest growing fields in the U.S. and participating in efforts to attract and retain students in this major is critical. The Computing field offers a unique opportunity for exciting industry-sponsored mini-projects that involve hands-on experience and link the applicability of computing skills to the industry world. Technical understanding is essential to engineering. But engineers find success and personal fulfillment when they couple these skills with a mindset to create extraordinary value for others [1]. Our mini-project aims at providing an immersive experiential learning experience that introduces students to engineering entrepreneurial-minded principles (EML). In this paper, we discuss the design of a seven week long lab offered in the beginning of the freshman year, where students get real world experience on cyber-security, computer networks, and the economics behind security attacks and security solutions. The theme of the mini-project is CSI; students form two groups, the “hackers” and the “defenders” and for the first six weeks of the project they rotate roles while trying to solve various tasks. The teams learn the basics of password cracking, password strength, wireless security, network monitoring, biometrics etc. The seventh week of the mini-project is reserved for the EML activity. We design the EML activity using several active learning modules. First, we show headlines from the news related to cyber security attacks and the financial threat they pose to corporations, as well as the US infrastructure (for example water plant attacks, the SONY PlayStation breach etc.). Then we ask students to brainstorm in teams – inspired by the headlines – about the biggest security issue they can think of, and how they can help defend against it using the technical skills they acquired in the first six weeks of the project. By the end of this module, we expect each team to narrow their security solutions down to the best two. The next step is for the team to give a 2-min pitch to the instructors and the TAs for both ideas. The concept is similar to the popular TV show “Shark Tank”; in our module the instructors will judge the students' pitch and select the best idea of every team to be presented as a poster presentation. In the beginning of the mini-project, we are going to introduce the objectives of the EML exercise, and set clear expectations for the deliverables, so that the students can start thinking about their security solutions as they learn the material during the first six weeks. We also teach the fundamentals of business concepts, like value proposition, customer segments, and introduce the concept of a modified business canvas [2], which tis a helpful tool for every new business in order to make their product idea perfectly aligned with their customers needs. Another important objective of the mini-project is for students to be able to effectively function as a team member, with effectiveness being determined by peer rating and self-assessment (using questionnaires [3]). We use a concept inventory in the beginning of the course in order to determine students’ interest and involvement in entrepreneurial-minded learning. This inventory is also used as pre-test data in our end of the course inventory, where we reassess students’ interest and confidence in entrepreneurship to measure the effectiveness of the instruction.


[1] KEEN foundation, Entrepreneurial Mindset 101, [2] Strategyzer, The business model canvas, [3] CATME Smarter Teamwork,

Chasaki, D. (2017, June), Entrepreneurial-Minded Learning in a Freshman Mini-project in Computing Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28288

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