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Engineering Impact Report

Developing Entrepreneurially Minded Engineers

ud-keen-curiosity-workshop

A 2014 Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) grant of $1.2 million initiated the largest faculty and curriculum development program in the history of the University of Dayton School of Engineering and launched the Visioneering Center to oversee the effort. 

With the grant's promise to train 50 engineering faculty in how to use activity-based, project-based and entrepreneurially minded learning to enhance course development, Visioneering Center Director Ken Bloemer got to work. 

The KEEN Fellows Program was created, eventually training 50 of 88 engineering faculty in three cohorts that each ran for a year. Fellows received a stipend, training on Entrepreneurially Minded Learning (EML) and curriculum development, and support to implement an EML module in one of their courses. 

For students, Bloemer said, "The EML modules engage them in authentic learning experiences that stimulate their curiosity and teach them to make connections between seemingly unrelated information. Together, these skills enable students to not only create value for their employers, but also for society at large."

Sid Gunasekaran, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and KEEN Fellow, revamped his fundamental aerodynamics course with multi-media PowerPoints, portfolios, active note taking packets and two self-directed "passion projects" that require students to take a deep dive into the subject matter. 

While he personally feels the equations underlying aerodynamic principles are "beautiful" he wanted to give his students a learning experience they would remember - one that went beyond memorizing those equations. 

"It's easy to forget about the application of an equation and that it models something in real life," Sid said. "I want my students to make those connections themselves."

Sid's work has been recognized in the KEEN magazine and Aerospace America. He now travels with Visioneering Center Director Ken Bloemer to other KEEN schools that are new to the network to talk about his successes with entrepreneurially minded learning. 

That work is part of a new $2M institutional grant from KEEN awarded in 2018. Bloemer and several of the UD KEEN Fellows are playing a significant role as KEEN Ambassadors - visiting new partner schools, developing onboarding tools, and producing case studies for training purposes. UD is the only network school with KEEN Ambassadors and just one of eight schools on the KEEN Faculty Advisory Council. 

Meanwhile, back in Dayton, the Center is working with industry and community partners to bring real-world engineering challenges into the classroom, with a goal of eventually impacting 50 UD engineering classes. 

EGR 103, the School's first-year engineering design class, has moved from having students designing cardboard coffee tables to tackling real-world challenges for community partners. One idea, Freedom Brace, turned into a patented medical device that is now being marketed by student entrepreneur Spencer Janning. 

In addition to its KEEN focus, the Visioneering Center also oversees UD's participation in the University Innovation Fellows, a program of Stanford University's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. Teams of students apply to the program, where they receive six weeks of design training and then visit Silicon Valley for a Meetup to tour businesses like Google and receive additional training. 

The program empowers students to become agents of change at their schools. At UD, they have created a new collaboration and study space on the fifth floor, incorporated art into engineering, and created a student-run project incubator, among other projects. 

"The University of Dayton does a great job incorporating innovation and entrepreneurship and design thinking into its engineering and business schools. Now the fellows want to spread that thinking across campus, opening potentially thousands of minds to innovation, entrepreneurship and design thinking," said Emily Fehrman Cory, faculty of practice in innovation and entrepreneurship in the School of Engineering and the group's adviser. 

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