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Infusing Innovation and Entrepreneurship into Engineering Education: Looking for Change as Seen by ASEE Members, 2012 to 2015

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Alan R. Peterfreund SageFox Consulting Group

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Alan Peterfreund is Executive Director of SageFox Consulting Group, an education research, evaluation located in Amherst Massachusetts. Alan has a Ph.D. in Geology from Arizona State University, and has been a research faculty member at Brown University. A career-shift in 1984 led to16 years of consulting in the private and public sector with primarily emphasis on organizational change, quality management, and employee participation. Starting in 2000, Alan began to focus on supporting higher education partners in projects that address broadening participation in the sciences, graduate student development, curriculum innovation, instructional technology, teacher professional development and other education reforms. For the past five years, Alan has been the lead evaluator for Epicenter, an NSF-funded STEP Center focused on infusing entrepreneurship and innovation into undergraduate engineering education.

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Emanuel Costache SageFox Consulting Group

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Since joining SageFox in 2009, Emanuel has worked on the evaluation team for a variety of NIH- and NSF-funded projects, including the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). Emanuel also works closely with Epicenter's Fostering Innovative Generations Studies (FIGS) research group and the Designing Education Lab at Stanford Univ. He lives in Portland, Ore.

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Helen L. Chen Stanford University

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Helen L. Chen is a research scientist in the Designing Education Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of ePortfolio Initiatives in the Office of the Registrar at Stanford University. She is also a member of the research team in the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). Chen earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her Ph.D. in Communication with a minor in Psychology from Stanford University in 1998. Her current research interests include: 1) engineering and entrepreneurship education; 2) the pedagogy of ePortfolios and reflective practice in higher education; and 3) reimagining the traditional academic transcript.

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Shannon Katherine Gilmartin Stanford University & SKG Analysis Orcid 16x16


Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on engineering education and work-practices, and applied finite element analysis. From 1999-2008 she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). In addition, in 2011 Dr. Sheppard was named as co-PI of a national NSF innovation center (Epicenter), and leads an NSF program at Stanford on summer research experiences for high school teachers. Her industry experiences includes engineering positions at Detroit's "Big Three:" Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler Corporation.

At Stanford she has served a chair of the faculty senate, and recently served as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Infusing Innovation and Entrepreneurship into Engineering Education: Looking for change as seen by ASEE members 2012 to 2015

During the Fall of 2012 (Baseline) and Spring of 2015 (Follow-up), SageFox and the Epicenter research team developed and administered surveys focused on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) in undergraduate engineering education. The purpose of the study and subsequent follow-up was to establish a baseline that could be used by Epicenter to assess changes over time in I&E initiatives within this community.

These surveys were administered to communities within ASEE, including ASEE Campus Representatives, Entrepreneurship and Engineering Innovation (ENT) Division members, and subscribers to ASEE’s Connections and Capitol Shorts newsletters.

144 and 171 faculty and administrators, representing more than 90 and 100 higher education institutions, responded in each year, respectively.

Our findings cluster around the following key questions:

1. What is I&E?

There is a shared understanding around the definition of I&E, in particular around concepts such as “creativity” and “market awareness.” Yet, among ENT members, ‘value creation’ is much more likely to be cited as primary components of I&E, blending more of the ‘entrepreneurship’ side of I&E. Non-ENT respondents were much more likely to mark ‘product development’ as a key component, in line with the ‘engineering design’ view around the ‘innovation’ side of I&E (a more traditional, product-centered approach to I&E).

2. What role does/should I&E play in engineering education?

I&E education especially within engineering is not a fad: interest in the subject, and the community around I&E, remains very high. Both in 2012 and 2015, when asked to rate the current and desired level of I&E offerings for students, respondents marked the desired levels of student engagement via required courses (60%), electives (95%), and extracurricular activities (95%) at twice the current levels of practice..

3. What are the practices that promote or inhibit implementation of I&E?

Our data show student demand for I&E remains strong, and students take advantage of available opportunities. Faculty, however, are less uniform in their support for implementing I&E. A ‘lack of room in the curriculum’ continues to be the most-cited barrier to success, and for many institutions/programs this is directly tied to ABET requirements.  (Interestingly, ENT members, were less likely to cite ABET/curricular-room issues as barriers than non-ENT respondents.)

‘Faculty resistance’ remained the second-most cited barrier to implementing I&E within the engineering curriculum in 2015, with most respondents expressing that there were a few highly-engaged faculty on their campuses with respect to I&E. Importantly, administrative resistance –listed as a major barrier in 2012 – fell dramatically (nearly to zero) 2015. We note also that while lack of funding continues to be a major issue overall, it is much less so for private institutions, who are able to respond to emerging trends and needs with more fiscal agility than their public peers.

Overall, there are many indications that despite the high inertia associated with making change in education, especially engineering education, that the momentum around I&E persists; barriers are being lowered and gaps are narrowing.

Peterfreund, A. R., & Costache, E., & Chen, H. L., & Gilmartin, S. K., & Sheppard, S. (2016, June), Infusing Innovation and Entrepreneurship into Engineering Education: Looking for Change as Seen by ASEE Members, 2012 to 2015 Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25691

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