by Ed Webb, March 16, 2017. This article was originally published in Lehigh University’s “Resolve Magazine.” Reprinted with permission.
Ed Webb, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics at Lehigh, was dismayed as he reviewed the student reactions to the first project in his Strength and Materials class in 2015.
“One student said ‘I felt I learned little except how to be frustrated over a computer code.’ They hated it.”
Soon after, Webb attended a workshop on “Integrating the Curriculum with Entrepreneurial Mindset,” hosted by Lawrence Technological University through the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). Inspired to find ways to spark his students’ creativity and engagement, he challenged the next semester’s class with an open-ended project: Design a treehouse for a charmingly eccentric ‘Aunt Ada.’
In Webb’s class, the real-world approach he built into the assignment yielded:
And a walk-out porch placed with the detonation heights for various classes of fireworks in mind, so Aunt Ada could see a nearby fireworks display every July 4th!
“They blew the project out of the water,” recalls Webb. “One student said they wished every professor at Lehigh would adopt this approach.”
The root of the entrepreneurial mindset that KEEN seeks to instill in engineers is summed up by KEEN’s 3C’s: Curiosity, Connections and Creating Value. The idea is to encourage engineers to adopt holistic thinking that challenges conventional ideas and integrates fresh ones. By taking ownership and thinking broadly and creatively about every aspect of projects they work on, engineers have a chance to enrich the lives of the people that their work touches.
John Ochs is working to implement the KEEN tenets throughout Lehigh’s engineering program. Ochs, then a professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics and director of the university’s Technical Entrepreneurship capstone course, was at the table to help shape KEEN’s mission when it was launched just over a decade ago. He serves as the point person on campus now that Lehigh has joined the network of participating schools.
“We’re leveraging KEEN training to influence the way faculty create their curriculum,” he says. “All undergraduate engineering students should be exposed to KEEN’s entrepreneurial minded learning (EML) techniques and have the chance to incorporate them into their educations and careers. So, we intend to infuse EML in some way into all core courses across every major. At present, some 45 engineering faculty who teach those core courses are employing KEEN principles to develop their own EML modules, and we plan to host further training to grow this over time.”
Watch Professor Webb's keynote from the 2017 KEEN National Conference!
After attending an Innovating Curriculum With Entrepreneurial Mindset workshop, he discovered how he could unleash the mindset of his engineering students. But it didn't stop there. To his surprise, his view of education, instruction, and even parenting have been changed.
Discover more ideas, opportunities, and actionable take-aways!