This article was originally published by Ohio Northern University here.


The manufacturing sector in the U.S. is often portrayed as something in decay. To the contrary, many manufacturers are growing rapidly and are in serious need of good engineering talent. However, since much manufacturing is regional, many students are unaware of the excitement, opportunities, and challenges in today’s manufacturing environment. Ohio Northern University offered a summer course that focused on the entrepreneurial mindset and its application in a manufacturing environment.

From May 30, 2017, to June 16, 2017, students were immersed in using their engineering skills to create value in U.S. manufacturing. Team projects, industry visits and real-world company projects brought the group together quickly. Students studied in the classroom with instruction from ONU’s mechanical engineering professors J-D Yoder, dean of ONU’s College of Engineering, and Dr. David Mikesell, chair of ONU’s Department of Engineering. They then transferred that knowledge into real-world projects with Crown Equipment Corporation, International Paper and Sauder Woodworking Company.

Kareem Ebraham, a junior engineering major at James Madison University, Lauren Garofalo, a sophomore mechanical engineering major at Villanova University, and Juan Martinis Lyons, a senior mechanical engineering major at Ohio Northern University, teamed up during The Engineering Value in U.S. Manufacturing Course to identify opportunities, design and prototype solutions that create value, and communicate those solutions directly to their client, Sauder Woodworking Company.

From strangers to team members, the group knew early on that communication was key when it came to working together as a team. “The processes involved when we were ideating and coming up with our final solution involved a lot of communication from every member of the team,” Ebraham says. “Something we realized early on in the design process was that all of our minds worked differently; therefore, communication and sharing our thoughts and ideas were important in order to stay on the same page and create a project that kept Sauder’s vision in mind.”

The opportunities for students to work with industry leaders and visit manufacturing facilities are truly part of what makes this course unique. Students visited each of the three sites as a class. After initial site visits, teams of students were created, and each team was assigned a project from one of the three companies. Students worked on designs and had opportunities for one-on-one visits with leaders from their group’s company to discuss their ideas.

Visiting the manufacturing facilities added value to the overall experience in the course. “I really enjoyed visiting all three companies, touring their manufacturing floors and seeing the overall process of how their products are made,” says Lyons. “We were able to talk with engineers and ask them questions about their day-to-day responsibilities. It gave me great insight into a potential career path and added value to our course project.”

All students attending an institution within the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network were eligible to apply for a full scholarship for this course focused on the KEEN student outcomes in a manufacturing context. The three-week, three-credit-hour immersive course, supported in part by The Kern Family Foundation, saw 10 students from seven different institutions take part in this opportunity to develop and demonstrate the entrepreneurial mindset.

“This course is for you if you want to see engineering in the real world, not just in the classroom. If you want to work for a company, if you want to make a real project and a real design and make an impact on how this company runs and how they make their products for their everyday consumers,” says Garofalo.