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The Toy Box Project: Connecting First-Year Engineering Students with Entrepreneurship

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Joshua Gargac University of Mount Union

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Joshua Gargac is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, OH, where he advises the mechanical engineering senior capstone projects and SAE Baja team. In addition, Dr. Gargac teaches first-year engineering courses, computer-aided design, kinematics and dynamics of machinery, and manufacturing science. He received his BSME from Ohio Northern University and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Notre Dame. Current interests include bone tissue mechanics, engineering pedagogy, and robotic football.

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Daniel John Hampu University of Mount Union

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Daniel J. Hampu is Chief Operating Officer of Fontus Blue, Inc., a software-based startup company that develops solutions and supports people making exceptional drinking water for the public. He is also Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund (NEOSVF), a collaborative organization that gives students from regional higher education institutions in Northeast Ohio an opportunity to vet and fund high growth potential startups. He is also an adjunct faculty in the University of Mount Union's Economics, Accounting, and Business Administration department where he teaches, “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” and “The Entrepreneur Experience.” Previously, he worked as a New Venture Manager with the University of Akron Research Foundation, where he focused on technology commercialization and due diligence, co-managing the University of Akron's National Science Foundation I-Corps Sites program, and managing deal flow for the ARCHAngels Investor Network. Mr. Hampu has a B.A. in Business Administration – Marketing from Mount Union College and a J.D. in Law and M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Akron.

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The benefits of integrating the entrepreneurial mindset into the engineering curriculum has been well documented. According to the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), the entrepreneurial mindset helps students understand the bigger picture, recognize opportunities, and learn from mistakes to create value. In an effort to develop the entrepreneurial mindset, the Department of Engineering partnered with the Entrepreneurial Studies Program at [School Name] to develop a collaborative design project between an upper-level entrepreneurship course (ENT350) and the first-year engineering course (EGE120).

In ENT350, the culminating experience for the entrepreneurship minor, students develop an idea using customer interaction and the business model canvas. ENT350 students often lack the resources and motivation to develop working prototypes of their ideas. In contrast, engineering students are comfortable with prototype creation and begin implementing the engineering design process early in the curriculum. At [School Name], engineering students complete a semester-long design project in EGE120, the second course in the engineering sequence for first-year students. For this project, students follow the engineering design process to develop and build prototypes that solve real-world problems. Previously, they worked without market analysis or client feedback. Therefore, the goals of connecting these two courses were to 1) implement a cross-disciplinary design project, 2) generate quality, market-driven prototypes, and 3) promote the entrepreneurship minor within the engineering program.

To collaborate, teams of ENT350 students solicited prototype proposals for new toy ideas inspired by ABC’s The Toy Box. Throughout the semester, the ENT350 “clients” provided market data and direction to EGE120 students as they designed and developed the prototypes. At an Engineering-Entrepreneurship Design Expo, the teams demonstrated their prototypes to the greater campus community. Overall, student surveys revealed this unique collaboration was beneficial to the learning outcomes of both courses.

Gargac, J., & Hampu, D. J. (2019, June), The Toy Box Project: Connecting First-Year Engineering Students with Entrepreneurship Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33432

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