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Estimation as an Essential Skill in Entrepreneurial Thinking

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Daniel Raviv Florida Atlantic University

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Dr. Raviv is a Professor of Computer & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University. In December 2009 he was named Assistant Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

With more than 25 years of combined experience in the high-tech industry, government and academia Dr. Raviv developed fundamentally different approaches to “out-of-the-box” thinking and a breakthrough methodology known as “Eight Keys to Innovation.” He has been sharing his contributions with professionals in businesses, academia and institutes nationally and internationally. Most recently he was a visiting professor at the University of Maryland (at Mtech, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute) and at Johns Hopkins University (at the Center for Leadership Education) where he researched and delivered processes for creative & innovative problem solving.

For his unique contributions he received the prestigious Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, the Faculty Talon Award, the University Researcher of the Year AEA Abacus Award, and the President’s Leadership Award. Dr. Raviv has published in the areas of vision-based driverless cars, green innovation, and innovative thinking. He is a co-holder of a Guinness World Record. His new book is titled: "Everyone Loves Speed Bumps, Don't You? A Guide to Innovative Thinking."

Dr. Daniel Raviv received his Ph.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1987 and M.Sc. and B.Sc. degrees from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in 1982 and 1980, respectively.

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Alyssa J. Harris Florida Atlantic University

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With technological advances, newer generations of students are exposed to computational tools that lead to more accurate results and the old-fashioned art of Estimation is often being overlooked. While in many cases accuracy is imperative, there are frequent instances when “back of envelop calculations” or rough estimation will suffice. Oftentimes, after calculations are made with the assistance of technology, students fail to question if their computations or simulation results actually make sense. This “lost art of estimation” can lead to precise calculations that are completely irrelevant. In engineering this could lead to design flaws and unsafe outcomes.

The goal of this paper is to briefly re-introduce the “Art of Estimation” in engineering. This is evident when dealing with entrepreneurial thinking where projections and estimations need to be quickly calculated and frequently modified as necessary. This paper shares research work that incorporates multiple, example-based estimation methodologies that are useful in engineering. The methods provide rough predictions of expected outcome, allowing students to “intelligently guess” a reasonable range of expected outcomes, given some basic raw data and parameters. The methods include:

• Segmentation • Fermi Estimation • Rules of Thumb • The 80/20 Rule • Visual Method • Upper and Lower Limit Estimations

For each method the authors introduce a brief history, a short explanation, as well as suggest how and when to use each method. Also included are classical examples and practice problems to reinforce students’ knowledge.

In order to assess the validity of the proposed approach, a recent presentation about estimation methods followed by a detailed questionnaire was presented to students in a “Fundamentals of Engineering” class that comprised of freshman students resulting in 63 responses that are very favorable. Summary of results on a scale of “1” to “5”, “5” being strongly agree, “3” neutral, and “1” strongly disagree. The overall average response was 4.13. This indicates that students preferred learning the presented estimations methods using an innovative and visual approach. Based on the additional questions, it turns out that students prefer to be taught, to learn visually and intuitively, to use PowerPoint and instructor notes and not rely on teaching themselves.

Raviv, D., & Harris, A. J. (2016, June), Estimation as an Essential Skill in Entrepreneurial Thinking Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26739

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