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The Relationship Between Teamwork and Innovation Outcomes in an Engineering Thermal Science Course: An Entrepreneurial Mindset Simulation

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

ENT Division Technical Session: Competitions, Challenges, and Teams

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Thien Ngoc Y. Ta Arizona State University

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Thien Ta is a doctoral student of Engineering Education Systems and Design at Arizona State University. She obtained her B.S., and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. She has taught for Cao Thang technical college for seven years in Vietnam. She is currently a graduate research associate for the Entrepreneurial Mindset initiative at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Her doctoral research focuses on Entrepreneurship Education and Innovation in Vietnam and in the U.S.

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Gary Lichtenstein Arizona State University

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Gary Lichtenstein, Ed.D., is Director of Program Effectiveness for the Entrepreneurial Mindset initiative at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He is also and founder and principal of Quality Evaluation Designs, a firm specializing in research and evaluation for K-12 schools, universities, and government and non-profit organizations nationwide. He specializes in entrepreneurship education, research and evaluation methods, and STEM retention.

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Ryan James Milcarek Arizona State University

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Ryan Milcarek obtained his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at Syracuse University. He also obtained a M.S. in Energy Systems Engineering, Certificate of Advanced Study in Sustainable Enterprise and Certificate in University Teaching during his graduate studies. After graduation, Ryan will begin a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at Arizona State University in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering: School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. His current research is focused on micro-tubular Flame-assisted Fuel Cells (FFCs), system level hybrid combustion/FFC applications including micro cogeneration and two-stage combustors, microcombustion, manufacturing of ceramic materials for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), and energy modeling. He also conducts research in engineering education in areas of sustainability, resilience and fuel cell education. Ryan gained his passion for energy research during his undergraduate studies while conducting energy assessments of industrial facilities as part of the Industrial Assessment Center program which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. Ryan is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, JSPS International Research Fellow, ASHRAE Graduate Grant-in-Aid recipient, and an Astronaut Scholar.

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Teamwork is essential to engineering work. Yet research is scant that explores the relationship between teamwork dynamics and innovation outcomes. Using an entrepreneurial simulation in an upper division thermodynamics course, this mixed-methods study investigates: What is the relationship, if any, between team dynamics and innovation effectiveness? Can a team achieve high innovation effectiveness if it has low team dynamics? Data were 14, 3-4 member teams assigned a term project to produce a biomass pellet burner that met specific design requirements. At the end of the term, teams pitched their solutions to a “board of investors” that comprised actual entrepreneurs and investors, who rated each team’s innovation effectiveness. During the term, all team members completed a survey assessing the effectiveness of their team’s collaboration across 9 dimensions of teamwork. Team ratings were supplemented by open-ended survey comments and one-on-one interviews. This study focuses on 7 teams that evidenced weak team dynamics. Of these, three achieved low innovation outcomes and four achieved high innovation outcomes. Teams with high innovation outcomes in spite of poor team functioning were able to make last-minute adjustments in order to complete the project successfully. The results of this research showed that the relationship between team dynamics and innovation quality is not linear, as might be inferred from prior research. Understanding how teams mitigate poor team dynamics could increase student learning as well as professional productivity. The results of this pilot study warrant fuller investigation.

Ta, T. N. Y., & Lichtenstein, G., & Milcarek, R. J. (2020, June), The Relationship Between Teamwork and Innovation Outcomes in an Engineering Thermal Science Course: An Entrepreneurial Mindset Simulation Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35361

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