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Improving Entrepreneurial Skills Through Problem-based Learning on Sustainability

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division – Innovative Course Offerings

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.917.1 - 26.917.13



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Paper Authors


David R Mikesell Ohio Northern University

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David R. Mikesell is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio Northern University. His research interests are in land vehicle dynamics, autonomous vehicles, and robotics. He joined the faculty in 2007 after work in automotive engineering at Ohio State (PhD 2008), six years designing automated assembly machines and metal-cutting tools for Grob Systems, and four years’ service as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He holds bachelor degrees in German (Duke 1990) and Mechanical Engineering (ONU 1997).

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Tailian Chen Gonzaga University

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Dr. Chen is an Associate Professor at Gonzaga University

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Jianfeng Ma Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Saint Louis University

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Dr. Jianfeng Ma is Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Saint Louis University. Dr. Ma attended KEEN Foundation-funded iFaculty program including the problem-based learning (PBL) workshop which was aimed at promoting the scholarship and teaching of the entrepreneurial mindset in the engineering school and across SLU (Spring 2012 and Summer 2012). In June 2012, Dr. Ma also attended the Shaping Entrepreneurial Engineers (SEE) Summer Workshop aiming to better prepare faculty to equip their students to be entrepreneurial engineers in the workforce. Dr. Ma teaches mechanical engineering courses at Saint Louis University and he inculcates entrepreneurial mindset in mechanical engineering students.

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Ahad Ali Lawrence Technological University

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Ahad Ali is an Associate Professor and Director of Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Systems and Master of Science in Industrial Engineering in the A. Leon Linton Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Lawrence Technological University, Michigan, USA. He earned B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Khulna University of Engineering and Technology, Bangladesh, Masters in Systems and Engineering Management from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and PhD in Industrial Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has published journal and conference papers. Dr Ali has done research projects with Chrysler, Ford, DTE Energy, Delphi Automotive System, GE Medical Systems, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, International Truck and Engine Corporation (ITEC), National/Panasonic Electronics, and Rockwell Automation. His research interests include manufacturing, simulation, optimization, reliability, scheduling, manufacturing, and lean. He is a member of ASEE, IEEE, IEOM, IIE, INFORMS, and SME.

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Improving Entrepreneurial Skills Through Problem-Based Learning on SustainabilityEngineering employers know that business success comes not only from technical prowess butalso through a spirit of innovation and an awareness of the business context of engineeringventures. Thus it is vital that engineering students are prepared for this environment, givenopportunities to develop a fuller set of skills necessary to contribute to business success.Exercises in these skills can complement a wide range of topics in traditional engineeringcourses. This paper discusses problem-based learning (PBL) module on the topic ofsustainability which sought to develop students’ abilities in and sense of the importance ofcollaboration, market analysis, innovative problem solving, and other entrepreneurial skills.The PBL module was co-developed by mechanical engineering faculty at four universities: W,X, Y, and Z. This module was delivered in two semester courses at each of the four schools,impacting a total of 219 students. After an introductory lesson on the concept and facets ofsustainability, student groups identified a product or process for which they saw opportunities toimprove the sustainability. Students were encouraged to seek expert guidance from someone in afield closely related to their product of choice. Students also had to analyze and weigh variousopportunities according to their impact on the product’s use, ease of manufacture, marketability,and a number of other measures. Students were required to conduct a market analysis todetermine the potential acceptance of the modification. Each student group ultimately generateda written report with their final proposal, and “sold” their proposal to the instructor and class viaa presentation or YouTube video.Pre- and post-project surveys (a common instrument at all schools) were given to all students tomeasure students’ confidence in their own abilities concerning fourteen different entrepreneurial-related metrics. The surveys also asked the students to rate their own perception of theimportance of these same skills. Improvement in both confidence and awareness was achievedin many of these areas. A full description of the project and detailed analysis of survey results isincluded.

Mikesell, D. R., & Chen, T., & Ma, J., & Ali, A. (2015, June), Improving Entrepreneurial Skills Through Problem-based Learning on Sustainability Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24254

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