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Learning Social Innovations and Social Entrepreneurship During COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship and Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Ajay P. Malshe Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Malshe is a R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of the Materials and Manufacturing Research Laboratory (MMRL), Purdue University. His fields of academic and industrial interest are advanced manufacturing, food-shelter-clothing and related life insecurities, bio-inspired materials and designing and system integration. He has overlapping 24 years of academic plus overlapping 15 years of industrial entrepreneurship experience. Application areas of his interest are food and agriculture manufacturing, mechanical systems, and manufacturing in space. He has 225 peer-reviewed publications and has delivered 105 keynote and invited talks across the United States and the world. He has 22 allowed patents with more than 65 resulting products commercialized and launched, in a team, across many industrial sectors worldwide used by Fortune 500 companies in the energy, electric vehicle, heavy-duty trucking, railway transportation, and high performance race car sectors. Malshe has trained 67 graduate and post-doctoral students and more than 1250 undergraduate students and young professional engineers in industries. He has also worked extensively with high schools to advance student learning success. Malshe’s notable honors include: Membership in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for “For innovations in nanomanufacturing with impact in multiple industry sectors”; Society of Manufacturing (SME)’s David Dornfeld Blue Sky Manufacturing Idea Award for “Factories-In-Space”; SME-S.M. Wu Research Implementation Award; three Edison Awards for Innovation; Tibbett Award by the US Small Business Association sponsored by EPA for successful technology transfer; R&D 100 Award, (the “Oscar” of innovation); Fellowships to the International 1. Academy of Production Engineering (CIRP), 2. the American Society of Materials (ASM), 3. the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME), and 4. the Institute of Physics (IoP), London, England; multiple best paper awards; NanoBusiness Alliances’ Lifetime Achievement Award and Most Influential Nanotechnology Leaders award; and Special recognition under “Discoveries” from NSF for a new process, “Electric Pen Lithography (EPL) for sub-20 nm scale machining using nanoEDM".

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Salil T. Bapat Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Salil Bapat is currently a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the School of Mechanical Engineering at the Purdue University under the mentoring of Prof. Ajay P. Malshe since March 2020. Dr. Bapat holds a Ph.D. degree in Microelectronics-photonics from University of Arkansas with emphasis on ‘tribology and surface characterization’. He has master’s and bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and engineering with experience in semiconductors, thin films processing and materials characterization. He has been involved with Prof. Malshe in teaching and assisting with introductory classes on materials, manufacturing and social innovations for the last 5+ years in the capacity of teaching assistant, co-instructor and instructor.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought multiple social, economic, and technological divides to the forefront as key societal issues that were previously ‘silent’ to the engineering and STEM community. These issues must be addressed through social innovations that can be easily implemented at the point of need. Social innovations are defined as new solutions (products, services, models, markets, processes, etc.) that simultaneously meet a social need (more effectively than existing solutions) and lead to new or improved capabilities and relationships and better use of assets and resources [The Young Foundation (2012) Social Innovation Overview]. The development of effective engineering solutions is a critical part of many of these social innovations. This is calling for new approaches to implement ‘social innovation and entrepreneurship’ education to the engineering students, in addition to the traditional STEM curriculum. Additionally, in the primarily ‘remote’ learning mode during the COVID-19 pandemic, different pedagogies are crucial for effective and engaged student learning.

This paper presents the methodology, highlights, and execution of the “Social Innovations: Engineering, Globalization, and Leadership” class that was conducted ‘virtually’ through the 8-week summer session of 2020. The motivation behind the class was to introduce, educate and encourage students to learn, adopt and implement attributes of social innovation philosophies and servant leadership via ‘case studies’ and discussion during the class meeting times. Weekly modules were developed to include one social innovation case study (including presentation rubric) per week and leadership lessons. The class proceeded in the ‘flipped classroom’ approach, where each student presented their perspective and analysis of the assigned social innovation case study, followed by interactive discussion within the group. Throughout the class, students advanced their understanding of the attributes of social innovation and leadership and its context to globalization and social equity. Concurrently, students were divided among two groups for the class project to practice the development of frugal engineering solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic. The projects focused on developing a multi-functional mask (physical) and a fact check plugin (digital), to prevent the spread of virus and misinformation, respectively. The project was executed in parallel with the class and culminated in an ‘open house’ presentation attended by multiple invited faculty and industry professionals. Throughout the duration of the class, each student developed their own model and attributes for delivering impactful social innovation along with a leadership mind map as a part of the final report. Students were graded based on their presentations, in-class interactive participation, and the final project report. At the end of the semester, based on the feedback from the students as well as the open house attendees, this virtual class, helped students to build a framework for social innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership for successful implementation within the frugal engineering model.

Malshe, A. P., & Bapat, S. T. (2021, July), Learning Social Innovations and Social Entrepreneurship During COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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