Smart Start: Designing Impact-driven Projects

Designing Impact-driven Projects I-Corps™ L Opening Workshop - Classroom Picture. Cohort: 2016 Washington, DC Metro Area

About the Course

This no-cost, two-week course is designed for researchers and innovators who want to deepen the impact of a project, product, or program to improve STEM education at any level in both formal and informal settings. When you accept the challenge, you will:

  • Identify the audience for your innovation and expand your research impact.
  • Learning how to develop an effective proof-of-concept, saving time and resources.
  • Awaken your inner entrepreneur.
  • Become more aware of the needs of others and seek efficient ways to address them.
  • Decide whether a rigorous, 8-week training like NSF I-Corps™ or I-Corps™ for Learning (I-Corps™ L) is right for you.

Is Smart Start for Us?

  • Pre-requisites

    Smart Start is for faculty, program administrators, and graduate students interested in promoting learning in STEM at all levels (e.g., P-12, undergraduate and graduate education, and in the STEM workforce), and settings (e.g., formal and informal).

    Preference will be given to teams of two or three participants, with evidence supporting their project, product, or program, e.g., documented learning outcomes, and any proof of concept data (implementation results). All-student teams are welcome.

    No prior NSF funding is required.

  • Time commitment

    Participants will conduct interviews with prospective users, learn how to plan for impact-driven research using a model proven successful with new innovations, and meet with course instructors to discuss progress and next steps. During the course period (June 24 – July 10, 2017), each participant will need to commit 10 hours per week to complete readings, videos, interviews and assignments.

  • Free course

    Smart Start is offered free of charge thanks to the support of the National Science Foundation under grant DUE-1355431. Unlike I-Corps™ and I-Corps™ L, acceptance in Smart Start does not include supplemental funding; participants are responsible for covering any required travel expenses to attend the face-to-face kick-off workshop in Columbus, OH (see dates below).

How To Apply?

  1. Check eligibility (see the "Is Smart Start for Us?" section above). 
  2. Prepare an online application (preview applicaton form) that addresses the following:
    • Brief description of your STEM learning innovation.
    • Summary of evidence supporting innovation (e.g. documented learning outcomes) and any proof of concept data (implementation results).
    • List of (up to three) team members, including their connection with the innovation (e.g., principal investigator, graduate student researcher, etc.).
    • Confirmation of team members’ willingness to commit to the two-week course, including attending all meetings and conducting customer discovery interviews.
  3. Submit your application at:



Emeritus Professor
University of Minnesota Professor
Purdue University



Associate VP for the Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (AIE)
University of Maryland

Questions? Contact ASEE Education and Career Development staff at




  • Application Period
    • February 6 – March 13, 2017
  • Acceptance Notification
    • March 27, 2017

COURSE (June 24 – July 10, 2017)

  • Kick-off Workshop (Columbus, OH)
  • June 24, 2017, 8 AM – 5 PM ET
  • Office Hours (Online)
  • Two one-hour sessions (arranged with instructors)
  • Closing Workshop (Online)
  • July 10, 2017, 1 PM – 4 PM ET