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The Engineering Entrepreneurs Program At Nc State University

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Product and Venture Creation Curriculum

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1148.1 - 7.1148.3

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Paper Authors

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Thomas Miller

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Stephen J. Walsh

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James J. Brickley

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Session 1654

The Engineering Entrepreneurs Program at NC State University

Thomas K. (Tom) Miller III, Stephen J. Walsh, and James J. Brickley, Jr.

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering North Carolina State University

The Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP) was established in 1993 in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State University with support from the National Science Foundation as a part of the SUCCEED (Southern University and College Coalition for Engineering Education) “Curriculum 21” initiative. The objectives of the EEP included retention, leadership and teamwork skill development, and preparation for the 21 st century workplace by exposing students to the dynamics of small, entrepreneurial companies. The EEP has been featured in various local and national media1,2,3,4,5, including National Public Radio 6, and is currently featured in the university’s undergraduate recruiting materials. This article will describe the EEP model and highlight some of its successes.

The EEP model

The EEP is open to undergraduate students at all levels, including freshmen, and integrated with the capstone design program in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Underclassmen and seniors not participating in capstone design can participate for multiple semesters, and earn one credit for each semester of participation. Seniors enrolled in capstone design earn four credits, and play the role of founders of a high-tech company. Development of the company’s “product” is the basis of the capstone design project. The one-credit students are “ground floor employees” of the start-up companies. This model allows EEP to fit easily within the already crowded undergraduate curriculum at NC State, and provides a framework for developing teamwork and leadership skills, mentoring of underclassmen by seniors, and a “real world” experience that gives the students a feel for life in a start-up company.

The EEP model places a great deal of emphasis on the leadership role of the senior st udents. They are told up front that this is the major difference between pursuing capstone design in EEP and more traditional approaches. The senior “founders” are required to come up with an organizational structure and a defined role in the company for each member of their team. All students participate at a level commensurate with their background and skills. Lower division students, for example, will typically have roles which are critical to the company’s success, but less technically challenging, such as product testing and market surveys. Anecdotally, the senior leadership role appears to be the most critical factor in the ultimate success or failure of the team. Senior leaders who have participated in EEP as underclassmen are usually the most successful leaders.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Miller, T., & Walsh, S. J., & Brickley, J. J. (2002, June), The Engineering Entrepreneurs Program At Nc State University Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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