Fusing introduction to engineering and intercultural communication and its effect on the customer awareness aspect of the entrepreneurial mindset
Technical skillset alone is no longer sufficient to prepare our engineering students for the global economy and for the societal challenges that they will help address today. It is important for educators to prepare the students who possess both a strong technical skillset and an entrepreneurial mindset. In order to promote the entrepreneurial mindset in engineering education, the Kern Family Foundation has established a network, known as the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network (KEEN), of institutions across the nation that are committed to this effort. KEEN uses the KEEN pyramid to depict the attributes of an entrepreneurial engineer, with each of the three bottom corners of the pyramid being technical fundamentals, business acumen, and customer awareness and the top corner being societal values; and defines the entrepreneurial mindset using the three C framework: curiosity, creating value, and making connections. At [Institution], an innovative approach called Project-Based Modular Learning (ProMod) has been used since 2015 that helps students see the connections of what they are learning from different disciplines and become more motivated to learn in courses outside of their core curriculum, as they apply the knowledge and skills gained from the different disciplines in a single real world project. In Fall 2017 a ProMod project that involves both introduction to engineering and intercultural communication classes is implemented at [Institution] for freshman mechanical engineering students. The project allows students to focus on a community that has a different cultural background than their own and develop a design solution to help the community of their chosen gain access to clean water. This ProMod project has been designed to also help instill the entrepreneurial mindset, more specifically, it emphasizes customer awareness as depicted in the KEEN pyramid. In the introduction to engineering class students learn about the design process as well as technical skills and tools, and in the intercultural communication class students develop an appreciation of the different cultural background of their customers in order to create a design that better meets their customer’s needs.
To assess how this effort affects students’ confidence in defining the design problem that focuses on the real need of their customer; and customer awareness, emphasizing intercultural aspects & notions of motivation, a survey instrument was designed and administered at the beginning of the semester to the cohort that is enrolled in this ProMod project and then again at the end of the semester. The control group used in this case consists of mechanical engineering students who enrolled in a different ProMod project during Fall 2016, as well as those who did not participate in ProMod.
In the paper, the details of the implementation of this ProMod project as well as results from the assessment will be discussed.
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