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Food for Thought: Predicting Entrepreneurial Behavior

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Craig G. Downing Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Craig G. Downing is Department Head and Associate Professor of Engineering Management at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His teaching responsibilities are focused on delivering graduate-level
instruction related to Operations and Quality Systems. His interests are rooted in Academic-Industrial partnerships, Process Improvement, and Action Research in Engineering Management. Further, serves as one of the champions for leading the campus entrepreneurial initiatives. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt.

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Thomas P. James P.E. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Tom James is presently a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His major interests are new product development and global business ventures. He currently teaches courses in accounting, finance, and entrepreneurial studies. In addition to teaching, Dr. James directs the ESCALATE program, a living-learning community focused on integrating entrepreneurship and technical disciplines. He received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering and an Executive MBA from Marquette University. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is a registered Professional Engineer (PE). Dr. James is also an avid inventor with over two dozen patents and he has several publications in peer reviewed journals related to his research in biomechanical systems. Prior to joining academia, he worked for over a decade in the consumer products industry, most recently as Senior Vice President of Global Engineering at Techtronic Industries, headquartered in Hong Kong, where he lived with his family for several years.

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Diane Evans Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Diane Evans is a professor in the engineering management department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She received her BS and MA degrees in mathematics at The Ohio State University and her MS and PhD in operations research and applied science from the College of William and Mary. Diane received her Black Belt in Six Sigma in 2011 from Purdue’s Technical Assistance Program. Her current research and teaching interests are in probability, statistics, quality control, and Six Sigma. She has published journal articles in the areas of probability, statistics, statistics education, quality control, and Six Sigma, and has published a book in computational probability. Diane won Rose-Hulman’s Dean’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2007, was named in Princeton Review’s 300 Best Professors in America in 2012, and was selected as one of Microsoft’s 365 “Heroes in Education” in 2012. In 2014, she spent her sabbatical working for Minitab statistical software company making educational materials for new statistics instructors.

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One area of the non-digital entrepreneurial ecosystem showing strong growth is the food service sector, particularly the food truck business. Currently, the food truck business generates roughly 3 billion dollars of revenue annually. [1] The relatively low barriers to entry and attractive returns on investment make this an appealing path for culinary entrepreneurs over the traditional brick and mortar option. A rising interest in food service businesses among entrepreneurs has led to the development of online simulations for instructional purposes, such as the New Venture Simulation: The Food Truck Challenge. Designed by Michael A. Roberto and made available online from Harvard Business Publishing for Educators, the food truck challenge provides a safe, yet fun, simulation to teach students the value of strategy and entrepreneurism.

Concurrent with the development of simulations that demonstrate entrepreneurial intent, new online survey instruments are available to gain insight into entrepreneurial mindedness. The objective of this paper is to determine if data collected from two survey instruments, specifically the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile (EMP) and Builder Profile 10 Index (BP10), predict behavior in the food truck simulation. For example, if data from a mindset profile demonstrates a high tolerance for risk taking, does a student’s actions in the simulation demonstrate a more risk tolerant profile?

For this research, 148 students majoring in math, science, or engineering completed both online survey instruments, EMP and BP10, and participated in the Food Truck Challenge simulation. The study was designed to include an equal number of first-year students and seniors, with the seniors enrolled in either an entrepreneurship course or an engineering management course. First-year students took an introductory entrepreneurship course as part of their participation in an entrepreneurship living-learning community on campus.

During the online simulation, students worked individually to achieve maximum revenue over five weeks, with the opportunity each week to pursue one of three options: (i) conduct business research and analysis, (ii) prospect a new location with a low-capacity pushcart, or (iii) commit to a single full-scale option of parking the food truck in a specific location. [2] Students make decisions about the three courses of action and menu item(s) to offer in hopes of finding the best menu-location combination, thereby yielding the highest sales and “winning” the simulation. The average time to complete the simulation was 27 minutes.

The results of this research are particularly relevant to faculty and administrators interested in understanding the value (predictability of behavior) gained from commercially available entrepreneurial mindset assessment instruments. It is conceivable that one-day entrepreneurial mindset instruments may correlate entrepreneurial behavior while on campus and post-graduation.

[1] Leadem, R. (2017). Why Food Truck Businesses Are Revving Up. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from [2] Roberto, M. A. (2016, June 9). New Venture Simulation: The Food Truck Challenge. Harvard Business Publishing for Educators. Retrieved from

Downing, C. G., & James, T. P., & Evans, D. (2018, June), Food for Thought: Predicting Entrepreneurial Behavior Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30529

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