27 CREATING VALUE ISSUE TWO Kitts’ students are building relationships with new UAV customers in both public and private markets. For starters, the RSL is using UAVs to create 3-D models of SCU campus buildings and to inspect solar panel installations. On the public side, the laboratory has been tapped for a government- sponsored environmental survey of Lake Tahoe. They’ve also been contacted about conducting bridge inspections using UAVs above the water and underwater robots below. “Applications for UAV technologies are limitless, but the business complexity is incredibly interesting,” Kitts states. He explains that articles abound citing various market applications, including package delivery, agriculture, and disaster relief to name a few. Business contexts, however, add to the complexity surrounding UAVs. As an example, an article in USA Today on transforming agriculture through the use of drones cites distribution channels and federal regulations as key variables for success in this market. 1 The article echoes reports that question why the U.S. is so far behind other countries that have been using UAV technology in agriculture for decades. “As engineers,” Kitts explains, “we have to be aware of and make connections among the systems and influences on emerging technologies in order to make the right decisions from a competitive business perspective.” Within the RSL, Kitts has developed Entrepreneurial Engineering Enterprises (EEE), a model for combining emerging technologies with entrepreneurial initiatives. The EEE model secures multi-year grants and contracts from a host of public, private, nonprofit, and academic clients, including the U.S. Navy, NASA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Nevada Reno, and a small tech firm, Canopus Corporation. Kitts says that each year these projects generate $300,000 to $750,000, and are tightly aligned with curriculum and students’ academic needs. Students develop both the technical skills to perform professional level work, as well as the relationship skills needed to manage and interact with customers and provide on-site training. Unlike a lot of senior capstone projects or co-op experiences, EEE projects necessitate ongoing services to clients over many years. “EEE projects promise real customer deliverables, so students gain experience exploring new markets, soliciting customer feedback, and understanding competitive pressures within various business models,” Kitts says. “In essence, EEE engages students in real engineering. That doesn’t mean that traditional educational industry projects aren’t worthwhile – not at all. “While such projects are incredibly valuable, I’m interested in offering additional opportunities to address those real-world challenges,” Kitts continues. “For example, maturing a prototype system to the point that it is routinely used by a customer, providing customer services over time, and improving products and services with subsequent releases, all contribute to developing deep customer empathy and mastering a business model. Several ongoing EEEs have been going on for a decade with a growing set of customers; I hope to achieve the same level of success with multiple KEEN partners as part of the new UAV program.” In March, Kitts organized a workshop for KEEN faculty to brainstorm ways to incorporate UAV technology and the EEE model at their own colleges. A dozen faculty members attended from Union College, Ohio Northern University, Bucknell University, Mercer University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and St. Louis University. “It was a great opportunity to share, and a number of KEEN partners are piloting efforts in their fall courses or extra-curricular activities,” Kitts says. “I’m glad The Kern Family Foundation is supportive of these collaborations so we can share techniques to teach technical content while fostering the broader considerations of the entrepreneurial mindset. It’s really exciting to be a part of the Network.” 1 ”Growing use of drones poised to transform agriculture,” USA Today (March 23, 2014)