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The Nciia: Turning Students Into Inventors And Entrepreneurs

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.532.1 - 4.532.9



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Paper Authors

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Francisco Ruiz

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Michael E. Gorman

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Phil Weilerstein

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

Session 2530

The NCIIA: Turning Students into Inventors and Entrepreneurs

Phil Weilerstein, Francisco Ruiz and Michael Gorman

National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance / Illinois Institute of Technology / University of Virginia


Can invention be taught? The pursuit of open-ended commercially focused projects provides opportunities for students to use design and problem solving skills, techniques and tools in a multi-disciplinary team setting. Through this process, students gain the skills, knowledge, confidence and commitment to test their inventive and entrepreneurial skills in the world. This paper provides an overview and profile of two courses developed under a program which provides support for the development of new approaches to engaging students with innovation by providing opportunities for the creation of new products and ventures as part of the educational experience.

The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) is an independent interdisciplinary educational program supported by The Lemelson Foundation to foster and promote the teaching of invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship by facilitating and supporting collaborative learning structures at colleges and universities nationwide. A major focus of the NCIIA has been engineering education. The two undergraduate engineering programs described here illustrate the diversity of paradigms that can successfully be used to introduce students to independent innovation.

The first, is the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) “Invention Center” where engineering projects are carried out in the studio environment typical of a Fine Arts class. Students are coached, rather than lectured, on everything that needs to be done to come up with a successful idea, make a prototype, and develop the legal and business aspects of it. The second, the University of Virginia’s Invention and Design course uses a classroom apprenticeship which is created through the use of active learning modules where students are confronted with open-ended problems. In both programs, ideas must be patentable and lead to a working prototype before a semester’s end. In addition, students must deliver a patent description and a business plan, and make a formal presentation before judges from industry. These courses provide an effective approach to meeting ABET Criterion 3 outcome requirements by integrating technical and non- technical aspects of applied innovation in an organic way to encourage creativity, self reliance and the emergence of inventive competence. NCIIA grants and resources have supported the development of these courses and the continuation of the most promising of the student projects emerging from them towards commercialization.

Ruiz, F., & Gorman, M. E., & Weilerstein, P. (1999, June), The Nciia: Turning Students Into Inventors And Entrepreneurs Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina. 10.18260/1-2--7849

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