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Work In Progress: Incorporation of the Entrepreneurial Mindset into the Introduction to Engineering Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Monday 5-Minute Work-in-Progress Postcard Session

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Haolin Zhu Arizona State University

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Dr. Haolin Zhu received her Ph.D degree in Solid Mechanics and Computational Science and Engineering from Cornell University. She is part of the freshmen engineering education team in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Currently she focuses on designing the curriculum for the freshman engineering program as well as the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program. She also designs and teaches courses in mechanical engineering at ASU, such as Solid Mechanics, Mechanism Analysis and Design, Mechanical Design, Computer Aided Engineering, etc. Her interests include innovative teaching pedagogies for increased retention and student motivation, innovations in non-traditional delivery methods, as well as structured reflective practices throughout the engineering curriculum.

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Benjamin Emery Mertz Arizona State University

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Dr. Benjamin Mertz received his Ph. D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2010 and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2005. He is currently a part of a lecturer team at Arizona State University that focuses on the first-year engineering experience, including developing and teaching the Introduction to Engineering course. He also teaches Thermo-Fluids, Advanced Math Methods, High Speed Aerodynamics, and other courses for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at ASU. His interests include student pathways and motivations into engineering and developing lab-based curriculum. Recently, he has developed an interest in non-traditional modes of content delivery including online classes and flipped classrooms.

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Work In Progress: Incorporation of the Entrepreneurial Mindset into the Introduction to Engineering Course

This Work In Progress paper will describe changes made to three first year Introduction to Engineering courses in order to promote the entrepreneurial mindset. Technical skillset alone is not sufficient for engineering students to address the societal challenges. According to the 2015 National Academy of Engineering (NAE)’s report Educate to Innovate [1], the development of critical thinking skills as well as an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset is equally important. In order to meet the needs of the global economy, besides emphasizing technical skills, engineering curriculum should incorporate content and activities that promote the entrepreneurial mindset (EM) and the best time to start this is during the freshman year. This, however, is not the same as teaching entrepreneurship or preparing entrepreneurs. According to Kriewall and Mekemson [2], “an entrepreneurial minded engineer (i.e., an engineer instilled with the entrepreneurial mindset) places product benefits before design features and leverages technology to fill unmet customer needs”. Skills associated with the entrepreneurial mindset include: effective communication (verbal, written, graphical), teamwork, ethics and ethical decision-making, customer awareness, persistence, creativity, innovation, time management, critical thinking, global awareness, self-directed research, life-long learning, learning through failure, tolerance for ambiguity, and estimation [3]. In order to prepare more engineering students with such skills, the Kern Family Foundation has established the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network (KEEN), a network of institutions that are committed to changing their pedagogy to develop entrepreneurial mindset in undergraduate engineers, that is built on the principle of “the Three C’s” [4]: Curiosity - demonstrate constant curiosity about our changing world & explore a contrarian view of accepted solutions; Connections - integrate information from many sources to gain insight & assess and manage risk; Creating Value - identify unexpected opportunities to create extraordinary value & persist through and learn from failure.

This paper will discuss three approaches of using team based hands-on design projects to incorporate the Three C’s in the first year Introduction to Engineering courses at [Institution], one of the institutions in the network. One of the projects involves fictional customers, acted by the teaching team, and a fictional scenario. The second one is based on a real world problem and a real world location that most students are not familiar with, and students do not have easy access to the customers, therefore, they rely on extensive online research. The third one offers opportunities for students to interact with real world customers throughout the design process. This paper will compare these three different approaches and discuss observations of early outcomes, in the form of excerpts from students’ design notebooks, reflections, and project reports. Specifically, these excerpts will be used to evaluate whether the type of interactions with “customers” influences how a student demonstrates the Three C’s in their project.


[1] "Front Matter." National Academy of Engineering. Educate to Innovate: Factors That Influence Innovation: Based on Input from Innovators and Stakeholders. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015.

[2] Kriewall, T. J., and Mekemson, K., "Instilling the entrepreneurial mindset into engineering undergraduates." in The Journal of Engineering Entrepreneurship, 1.1, pp 5-19, 2010.

[3] Gerhart, A. L., Carpenter, D.D., Fletcher, R.W., Meyer, E.G, “Combining discipline-specific introduction to engineering courses into a single multi-discipline course to foster the entrepreneurial mindset with entrepreneurially minded learning”, in ASEE, the proceedings of, Indianapolis, IN, 2014


Zhu, H., & Mertz, B. E. (2017, June), Work In Progress: Incorporation of the Entrepreneurial Mindset into the Introduction to Engineering Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29164

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