Now more than ever companies are expecting students graduating from baccalaureate engineering degree programs to have a level of business expertise to complement their technical and problem solving skills learned through their degree program. Companies also expect business students to have an understanding of more technical concepts to be effective working in teams composed of employees with business and engineering backgrounds. With corporate investment and engineering project funding decisions reliant upon company financial statement and stock price impact, it is crucial for engineers and business people to be able to share common skill sets to effectively evaluate project investment alternatives.
This paper discusses an integrated approach being taken at multiple universities to develop business and engineering skills in industrial engineering and business students through case competitions. The paper will describe two different approaches while comparing and contrasting the two business and engineering sponsored case competitions.
In the first competition, 116 industrial engineering students competed in a case competition sponsored by a large U.S. retailer as part of their junior engineering economy course. The problem given to the students was a real life problem currently being addressed by the U.S. retailer. The case competition was carried out in an effort to complement an evolving engineering economy curriculum with increased emphasis on business concepts rooted in finance and financial accounting, namely financial statement analysis. The first place team was awarded $1,500, second place $1,000, and third place $500. The results of the case competition were overwhelmingly positive. 95.45% of the participants felt as though the case study experience added value to the engineering economy course. When compared to completing an assignment solely for a grade, 79.1% of the students felt as though the competition component of the study motivated them to try harder on the assignment. In fact, over 91% of the students said they would like to see similar case study experiences in more of their industrial engineering courses. 99.1% of the students felt as though they had a better understanding of how they would conduct an industrial engineering study and sell their work to upper level management using an engineering economic/ financial justification. On a Likert scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being extremely satisfying, the overall case study learning experience from the student perspective was 4.1 out of 5. The competition was judged by 8 corporate employees from the large U.S. retailer. The case competition paid huge dividends for the large U.S. retail sponsor. On a Likert scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being extremely satisfying, the overall case study experience from the retailer perspective was 4.8 out of 5. Before completing the company case study experience, only 22.7% of the students (25 out of 110) said they had a good understanding of the work industrial engineers did for the U.S. retailer sponsoring the case study competition. After completing the case study experience, 92.7% of the students (102 out of 110) said they now have a good understanding of the work industrial engineers do for the case study sponsor. Prior to completing the case study experience, 35.5% (39 out of 110) of the students responded ‘Yes’ they would have considered an internship or full time position with the U.S. retailer sponsoring the case study competition. 47.3% said ‘Maybe’ they would have considered an internship or full time position while only 17.3% responded ‘No.’ After completing the case study experience, 54.5% (60 out of 110) responded ‘Yes’ they would consider an internship or full time position with the sponsor. 40.9% said ‘Maybe’ they would consider an internship or full time position while only 4.5% responded ‘No.’
The second competition brought together 36 industrial engineering and business students from 3 large U.S. universities. The competition was developed and sponsored by the engineering and business departments at the host university, a large U.S. university. Nine teams comprised of two business students and two engineering students “raced” through three one-hour rounds of competition. The first place team was awarded $3,000, second place $1,500, and third place $500. During round one and round two, the students answered a series of qualitative and quantitative questions based on a Harvard Business Review case on additive manufacturing, and then physically raced from one location to another spread across the host university campus. Only the top three scoring teams from round one and two advanced to the third and final round. Each round was judged by a panel of judges consisting of five corporate and five faculty judges. The final three teams gave 10 minute presentations and were grilled with questions in a corporate board meeting setting. The feedback received from the case study experience was overwhelmingly positive. On a Likert scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being extremely satisfying, the overall case study learning experience from the student perspective was 4.6 out of 5. 100% of the participants said the case competition experience added value to their education and 100% also said they would like to see similar case study experiences in the remainder of their educational experience. When compared to completing an assignment solely for a grade in a class, 94.4% of the students said the competition motivated them to try harder. 91.7% of the students said that after completing this case study competition, they felt as though they now had a better understanding of how they would conduct a business or engineering study and sell their work to upper level management. 94.4% of the students said that going forward they felt as though they had a better understanding of how to assess the capabilities and impact of an emerging technology on Supply Chain Management as a result of their participation in this Case Competition.
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