Asee peer logo

Fostering Intra- and Entrepreneurship in Engineering Students

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division New Ideas Session 1

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.624.1 - 24.624.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Erin Jablonski Bucknell University

visit author page

B.S. Biochemical Engineering 1999, Rutgers; M.S. Chemical Engineering 2001, Rutgers; Ph.D. Chemical Engineering 2002, Iowa State University; NSF Graduate Research Fellowship 1999-2002; NRC Postdoctoral Fellow at NIST 2002-2004.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Fostering Intra- and Entrepreneurship in Engineering Students: Taking innovation and design through development, market research, technical feasibility and economic analysis, to commercialization or implementation…and sometimes failing.Engineers value the ability to solve problems in novel ways, the capacity to envision alternativesolutions, and the knack for design. However, traditional instructional and evaluation methodsmay make students overly risk averse, impacting their willingness to innovate to the extentnecessary to make disruptive changes to technology. Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit inengineering undergraduates may allow them to be more creative and less risk averse in theirapproach to solving multi-faceted, ill-defined problems. Analysis of student feedback fromreflection essays, self-report attitudinal surveys, and instructor assessment in two very differentcourses that promote the entrepreneurial mindset through student-driven projects will be used todistill the attitudes and behaviors students value in being more creative and less risk averse.The courses to be discussed aim to foster the development of an “entrepreneurial streak” instudents through posing ill-defined problems that they may fail to completely solve – and focusassessment on their approach to the process. Realizing the wisdom gained from failure and theexperience of trying to get something to work only to find it is not feasible – whether it be fortechnical, economic, or practical reasons – is invaluable to engineering students. Because thethreat of failure should not paralyze students’ ability to move forward, but rather challenge themto fully engage with technical content, failing forward is proposed as a valuable component ofengineering coursework. As a test-case for teaching the fail forward model, two courses havebeen developed, instructed and assessed with respect to how to improve students’ capacity andwillingness to be creative, take risks, and learn from failure.The two courses in which the fail forward model has been implemented include an upper-levelelective in entrepreneurship and a Fluid Mechanics course. In semester-long projects that thestudents select and justify (unique to each group), students are challenged with demands thatthey know they may not meet with the understanding that they will be assessed on progress andprocess. Grade-focused students are initially uncomfortable taking on a project they may notcomplete, and with little information about how “far” they are expected to get, but over thecourse of a few weeks they let go of that distraction and focus on the work at hand and how theycan improve their initial designs to make completion more feasible. Students value this lesson,although many characterize it as an educational struggle, but it prepares them for the reality ofmaking decisions with incomplete information and working through design alternatives. Themost rewarding part of teaching with the fail forward model, and perhaps the most valuableoutcome, is building students’ confidence in both their knowledge and their willingness to justgive it a try.

Jablonski, E. (2014, June), Fostering Intra- and Entrepreneurship in Engineering Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20515

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: © 2014 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