2018 FYEE Conference

Work-in-Progress – Entrepreneurial Mindset in First-Year Engineering Courses

Presented at Technical Session III

One challenge faculty face when working with first-year engineering students is how to “hook” them into being interested and motivated in introductory courses. Many universities are experimenting with programs in entrepreneurship that focus on upper division students, but there are fewer examples of this in first-year programs. In the fall of 2017, first-year engineering students at our university completed a design project to help them develop an entrepreneurial mindset. The student had the freedom to develop a product that would improve upon an existing design in an innovative way or to develop a new product with a designated purpose. Student teams self-selected their project and the projects developed encompassed seven classifications (University-Related Devices, Assistive Technologies, Outdoor Activities, Appliances, Personal Use Conveniences, Environmental/Road Management/Office Arrangement, and Phone/Portable Technologies). Over the course of the semester student teams completed project deliverables that included:
• Team Contract
• Design Thinking-Based Deliverables (Empathy Map, Problem Statement and Ideation, and Prototype/Test)
• Project Proposal
• Physical Concept Model (NX 3D model), along with a prototype constructed in the University’s Makerspace
• Hazard Analysis
• Resource Budget
• MATLAB Product Marketability Analysis
• Design Project Poster, student teams defended their work to evaluators from the university community at a session similar to the University’s annual Design Expo
• Final Project Book

When researching other institutions where entrepreneurial design projects had been completed, there was little information on what or how students or teams self-select design ideas. Although most of the ENG1102 teams had good ideas, some of their design ideas already existed or were poorly implemented. Only six teams had a truly innovative idea with a viable path to implementation. This suggests that in future courses, the design project would be improved if additional constraints were incorporated. Possible constraints include targeting:
• A specific population (i.e.: children, adults, physically/mentally challenged)
• A geographical region
• A global/regional issue

This paper not only describes what was observed and analyzed for this introductory engineering course, but it also outlines key lessons learned during this semester, next steps to improve the course, and suggestions for how others could start this type of project in their own FYEE program.

  1. Ms. Mary Fraley Michigan Technological University [biography]
  2. Ms. Mary Raber Michigan Technological University [biography]
  3. Dr. Gretchen L. Hein Michigan Technological University [biography]
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