KEEN PARTNERS WITH THE UNIVERSITY INNOVATION FELLOW EXPERIENCE “Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s University Innovation Fellows (UIF) brought ‘Fire in the Belly’ to WPI, creating opportunities for the WPI community to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. The UIF program, complementing our KEEN activities, has enabled our students to find their passion, develop differentiating entrepreneurial mindset skills, and create social impact through customer-focused engineering innovation. The students were so pumped up on return from the Silicon Valley UIF Meetup. It was wonderful to see. The word has spread on campus, and because of its success, many more students are interested in participating in the program. We certainly plan to continue participating in UIF. Awesome experience!” — Curtis Abel, Professor of Practice, Undergraduate Studies Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Worcester Polytechnic Institute The fifteen-week course is broken up into a series of five project sections, each lasting two weeks. Students are assigned to a new group and rotate every two weeks for ten weeks and then pause for a week of reflection. For the remaining four weeks, students select the project they enjoyed the most and delve deeper into it. The complete two-week project sections are: ◆ Secondhand Smoke ◆ Biomedical Waste ◆ Infant Mortality ◆ Mars Water ◆ You Choose Of course I introduce the Mars Water project by showing The Big Bang Theory video, talking about my history with the project, and having a good laugh at myself along with the students. So what does this course actually look like? During each of the two-week project sections, groups are asked to scope a problem, develop a plan to address a specific aspect of the problem, and then build a prototype of their solutions. Students learn through guided inquiry, but much of their learning is done on their own outside of class. Because this is an introductory course, I do not focus project outcomes solely on technical skills development. Instead, I focus my efforts on getting the students into a growth mindset. They develop introductory levels of technical competence in order to solve the problem at hand. For each of the project sections, student deliverables are assessed against how well they tie their project ideas to four course outcomes: ◆ Key environmental legislation and policies ◆ Identification of the water, air, and soil contaminants ◆ The tie between environmental quality and disease (contaminant environmental transport and fate) ◆ Common treatment and control methods All student deliverables need to be relayed and communicated within these outcome measures. This is my first experience in any class I’ve taught where students can recite the course outcomes and relate them to what we are doing in class. Groups consider what constraints will drive their designs. At this point, they do not know enough to understand what their constraints are, making research the first project activity. Research is always the first homework assignment. Relevant research governing the problem is summarized. Each group shares what they learned. Groups are allowed time to discuss what they envision as relevant constraints and begin to brainstorm potential solutions. They develop sketches of at least five potential solutions for homework in advance of the third class meeting. Groups share their sketches and provide a three-to-five-minute discussion about their project topic to other groups. They have 10 minutes of class time to prepare. Groups then rotate and practice their pitches for the remainder of this class. Practicing proves important, allowing them to refine their idea. For homework, students explain their project to someone who is not a student in order to get external feedback. Here’s how a project session is structured: In this new format, which focuses on instilling an entrepreneurial mindset, students went beyond my expectations. They evaluated technical feasibility and assessed how designs would impact policy. Students were able to communicate engineering solutions in terms of their benefit to various stakeholders while working within their teams to come up with interesting solutions during each project section. At the end of the four- week-long deep dive section, students showed an understanding of technical skills beyond that of students taking my class before I redesigned it. For example, a group of students proposed a design for inter-wall space wastewater treatment. They identified that NASA’s current system of disposing and cleaning of waste is very difficult because solids and liquids have to be separated right away. Their solution was to use a multistep system that relied on four types of filters to sort waste and three pistons to pump and move fluid, all of which resulted in clean water for the astronauts. By taking civil engineering students “out of this world” to identify and solve real-world problems, I was able to touch many of the complementary skills for entrepreneurial engineering identified by KEEN, resulting in an increase of passion in my students. To make any of their proposed solutions possible, students need an engineering skillset coupled with an entrepreneurial mindset. And who knows – maybe one of the concepts students prototyped will eventually be used to help NASA get to Mars, allowing someone to go where no one has gone before. The result: students have more passion and know more Vacuum of space Inter-wall space Solar panels for system Nano filtration Piston and retractable plate to create “vacuum” and to act as gravity Reverse osmosis Dual “bag” filters Dual micro filtration areas Collection port Piston Internal holding tank Piston I focus on helping students refine their idea and create a quick prototype of their solutions. I visit with each group (during and outside of class) to discuss their direction, design constraints, and the external feedback they received. By the end of this meeting, each group has a proposed solution, allowing them to spend the next few days working on the prototype (including all of the fifth class meeting). I inform the class of the project deliverables. Groups continue to work on their prototypes. Groups share their work with the class. Often this is a show and tell round robin. Groups select one member to present their project, and everyone else in the class circulates to learn about other designs. Each group also provides me with a narrated PowerPoint explaining how their design process addresses each of the class outcomes. 30 31