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“Impact! Exploring Innovation Across Disciplines” - Engaging the University Innovation Ecosystem Through a University-Wide Course

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Programs in Entrepreneurship

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1404.1 - 23.1404.19



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Paper Authors


Steven B. Shooter Bucknell University

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Steve Shooter is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Bucknell University where he has taught for 18 years. He teaches classes such as senior design, exploring innovation, mechanical design, and mechatronics. His research is in information management in design, managing innovation and robotics. As a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania he has consulted with dozens of companies on new product ventures and production infrastructure.

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Seth Orsborn Bucknell University

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Seth Orsborn is an Assistant Professor of Markets, Innovation, and Design in the School of Management at Bucknell University. Prof. Orsborn has a keen interest in the relationship between mechanical and aesthetic design in product development that developed from a diverse background in mechanics and the arts. He has worked for and consulted with a variety of companies regarding new product development and the impact of aesthetic design. Prof. Orsborn teaches marketing and product development at Bucknell and is a practicing freelance graphic artist. He also directs the Qualitative Design Research Group at Bucknell which focuses on the boundary between engineering design and industrial design in the product design process.

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“Impact! Exploring Innovation Across Disciplines” - Engaging the University Innovation Ecosystem Through a University-Wide CourseInnovation can be simply described as the realization of ideas to add value. The goal of innovation isPOSITIVE CHANGE, to make someone or something better. Innovation involves a change in the thoughtprocess for DOING SOMETHING or new stuff that is made useful. It can often involve incremental orradical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes or organizations. While there are manysimilarities and interesting differences among the approach to innovation in various fields, there is alwaysone common element: The strong drive to make an IMPACT. This course examines innovation from aninterdisciplinary and integrative perspective. We explore both what makes something innovative and howinnovation happens; whether the innovation is a breakthrough product like the iPod; a new water systemfor developing countries; an engaging piece of music or inspiring work of art; an emotional theatricalevent; or a revolutionary film. The course is cross-listed with a UNIV designation to engage studentsfrom diverse backgrounds. Participants have come from engineering as well as art and art history,comparative humanities, communication, economics, education, English, history, management, music andpsychology.The course is organized into three modules around innovation: define, recognize and demonstrate. Allexercises required students to work in interdisciplinary teams to review the latest literature on innovationand prepare case studies. We also had many guest lectures from faculty around campus on targeted topicsof innovation. For example, a Professor of Comparative Humanities, explained that innovation wasviewed as subversive throughout much of history and cited negative connotations in works byShakespeare. Faculty in theatre and dance explained and demonstrated hierarchical collaboration intheatrical productions and gave an outstanding demonstration of the use of modeling in set design andentertainment technology. A professor in psychology gave a tour of his childhood studies laboratory andemphasized the importance and techniques of observation to understand needs of customers and users.The president of the University talked about creativity in teaching, scholarship and administration. Otherguest lectures came from art, art history, biomedical engineering, music, and education.After learning techniques for successfully realizing innovation, students work in interdisciplinary teams todevelop an innovation with the broad theme of “children at play” (no other direction given). In support ofthis theme we have brought in Ian Proud from Playworld Systems to describe their world-leadingapproach to playground equipment; Peter Vigeant from ESI Designs to explain his approach toexperiential designs and the creation of interactive children museums; and Dave Robertson from WhartonSchool of Management to talk about how innovation at Lego turned around the company from the brinkof bankruptcy. The students’ innovation projects were displayed in an exposition open to the entirecampus community.The course has now been taught for two years. Student reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Butperhaps the more meaningful outcome has come from the course acting as a catalyst for engaging thebroader university ecosystem in a conversation about our common interest: making an Impact. This paperwill describe the course organization and content. It will also examine the broader impact on theuniversity innovation ecosystem through the engagement of faculty and students from multipledisciplines.

Shooter, S. B., & Orsborn, S. (2013, June), “Impact! Exploring Innovation Across Disciplines” - Engaging the University Innovation Ecosystem Through a University-Wide Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19029

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