Asee peer logo

Entrepreneurial Mindset Development in a Senior Design/Capstone Course

Download Paper |


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 II

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.632.1 - 22.632.8

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Randall Brouwer Calvin College

visit author page

Randall Brouwer is a Professor of Engineering at Calvin College. He obtained the M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He served as an IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow in 2005. His interests include computer architecture, embedded computer systems, engineering education, public policy, and entrepreneurship.

visit author page


Aubrey Sykes Calvin College

visit author page

Professor J. Aubrey Sykes is a Ph.D. Chemical Engineer and a Professional Engineer licensed in Texas as a chemical engineer. In his early life, he worked in materials processes and products development of all kinds for W.R. Grace, Shell Development Co. (Royal Dutch Shell), Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. and AMP Inc. In his later years in these corporations he was responsible for leadership in innovation and technology management.
For the last 12 years, he has been teaching environmental and interdisciplinary engineering at Penn State-Harrisburg, Harrisburg Community College, Grand Valley State University, and principally for the last eight years, Calvin College. At Calvin College, he has been one of the Principal Investigators in the program to bring an entrepreneurial mindset to the education program.

visit author page


Steven H. VanderLeest Calvin College

visit author page

Steven H. VanderLeest is a Professor of Engineering at Calvin College, Vice-President of Research & Development at DornerWorks, Ltd., and partner at squishLogic LLC. He obtained the M.S.E.E. from Michigan Technological University and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include appropriate technology, entrepreneurship, Agile software development, and safety-critical embedded systems (particularly digital avionics). He can be contacted by email at

visit author page

Download Paper |


AbstractEntrepreneurial Mindset Development in a Senior Design/Capstone CourseThere are many ways to organize a capstone for senior engineering students. Usually the goal is to givethem a significant design experience that will prepare them well for work following graduation.Sometimes the focus of a capstone course is on solving technical problems of an advanced technicalproject. Sometimes the focus is on getting the students to produce what an industry partner is hopingto see. Sometimes the focus is on giving the students a rich experience in how a team works together.Sometimes the focus is on the business side of projects and engineering. Sometimes the focus is oncovering material that doesn’t fit in any of the other regular courses. Most capstone courses try to formsome balance between these and other competing topics and expectations, but with ever-changingteaching faculty, it is difficult to have a well-packaged and delivered capstone course that is consistentfrom year to year.For the past several years at our institution, we have been exploring a number of ways to cohesivelybring our capstone experience together for the students and at the same time help our studentsdevelop an entrepreneurial mindset. It is not our goal to develop every student into an entrepreneur;our goal is to help all engineering students think like an entrepreneur when faced with multi-facetedproblems. Merriam-Webster defines and entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages, and assumesthe risks of a business or enterprise.” Engineering students who think like an entrepreneur should beable to not only recognize opportunities, but also have the tools to assess the opportunities. To do that,the students need a strong technical background; the students need to understand the language andworkings of business; students must understand who the customer is; and students need to appreciatethe operational values in each situation they encounter. We have allied ourselves with business facultysuch that all engineering students develop business plans for their projects and business students in anupper-level strategies course work with specific engineering design teams. This year we have alsobegun an emphasis on identifying the customer and responding to the customer’s needs, helping ourstudents think about the issues in a non-graded environment. Alumni, business faculty, and enterprisecenter personnel are involved in assessing the initial ideas that each senior design team is proposing. Inaddition, specific lectures have been prepared and given to the class that introduces the concept andvalue of having an entrepreneurial mindset.The paper will explore further the recent changes to our capstone course and provide some earlyfeedback from students and constituents on the changes. We plan to work with our advisory council toget their feedback on the proposed changes and plan to provide detailed questionnaires to the studentsat the end of the first and second semesters of the course.

Brouwer, R., & Sykes, A., & VanderLeest, S. H. (2011, June), Entrepreneurial Mindset Development in a Senior Design/Capstone Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015