June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation
14.716.1 - 14.716.9
An engineer equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset contributes to business success, makes his/her company more competitive, and is generally more aware of business and professional opportunity. To instill an entrepreneurial mindset in our engineering programs (aerospace, biomedical, electrical, and mechanical engineering), we started exposing our students from very early i.e., the first semester of the freshmen year. We developed and deployed a module that guides the student in developing an abstract idea into a product concept. This module takes three to five lectures and is designed to be a cohesive part of the freshmen engineering curriculum. The module includes several case studies executed by the senior engineering students, inspiring the students to believe in their potential. One example case study illustrating the product development process is provided in this paper. The freshman students wrote a one-page summary of their product concept and entered into the I2P competition. This paper discusses the module components designed to help students overcome the challenges in conceiving innovative product concepts. Results of a survey given after the module shows the students found this module and the associated activity to be useful.
A 2002 estimate detailed how approximately 460 million people worldwide start a new business or become new owners of existing businesses every year1. Wrighton2 notes how universities with engineering programs must be the promoters of entrepreneurship, since we are uniquely positioned to train students who have the technical ability to effect change and harness new and existing science into new solutions for the opportunities and challenges presented by the world economy. Students with exposure to engineering entrepreneurship will understand vital business aspects including marketing and economics, and key engineering facets such as innovation and performance. Such an engineer synergistically integrates technical competence, customer awareness, business acumen, and social values. In addition, engineering students exposed to entrepreneurship early in their education have shown higher retention rates3-6, higher GPAs6, and improved soft professional skills, which are components of engineering entrepreneurship, even while their understanding of engineering as a technical field does not change3,7. A recent study8 revealed how engineering juniors and seniors believe they should receive education about business and entrepreneurship throughout their college careers, even though their major is in a technical field. Traditionally, the capstone senior design projects in undergraduate engineering programs come close to exposing the students to the business aspects, but most projects are dominated by design and build activities. The customer needs, business, and societal aspects take a back seat while the projects focus on technical knowledge and ability6.
Instead of taking the traditional approach, we are trying to incorporate the entrepreneurial mindset into all of our engineering students, starting with freshman engineering courses and ending with their senior design capstone courses. We decided to entice students by exposing them to engineering entrepreneurship from very early in their program of study, i.e., the first semester of the freshmen year. This strategy is inline with the observations of Bilen et al.9 and Georgi et al.7 who note that younger students are more interested in entrepreneurship. They also indicate that creativity should be central to any module. To this end, we have started to deploy an interactive lecture module composed of real-world examples and product opportunity identification challenges in the freshmen year. This module takes three to five lectures and is designed to be a cohesive part of the freshmen engineering curriculum. Students work on the
Condoor, S., & McQuilling, M. (2009, June), Incorporating An Entrepreneurial Mindset In Freshman Engineering Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5566
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