Over the past decade, entrepreneurship has emerged as a critical aspect of engineering education. Driven by changes in the global economy, entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing areas of course development in engineering programs, with hundreds of courses in entrepreneurship now available to engineering students. However, we know little about program characteristics, learning goals, assessment practices, and student impacts. This multidisciplinary research team will identify the characteristics of engineering-centric entrepreneurship education programs that enroll engineering students, starting with an in-depth examination of three well-established programs. Then these results will be used to conduct an inventory of at least 50 additional programs across the U.S. Information collected will identify and define program types, innovative teaching methods, student learning goals, and assessment practices. In addition, faculty beliefs about engineering entrepreneurship education will be studied and interviews with entrepreneurship faculty will explore what they believe students should learn, how entrepreneurship should be taught, and how students should be assessed. This data will be used to develop a survey that will be administered to faculty who teach in 50 other programs, and then the survey will be generally available.
The results of this research, which will include guidelines for best practices in teaching, program development, and assessment, will have great significance for educating engineers who will be competitive in the global economy. Results will be widely disseminated using network of the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and will include workshops and training materials for faculty, dissemination of tools for evaluation of learning outcomes, and detailed information on the status of entrepreneurship education programs across the country. This will provide resources for engineering educators as they modernize the curriculum and will benefit students who will have wider access to quality engineering entrepreneurship education options.
As engineering schools are increasingly being called upon to prepare "entrepreneurial engineers" who can identify opportunities, understand market forces, and successfully commercialize new technologies, the role of entrepreneurship in science, technology and engineering education is undergoing a major transformation, with many engineering schools now providing academic credit for students to work on commercially driven innovation in entrepreneurship programs. In response to this transformation, research has been conducted on entrepreneurship education in engineering, yet much of this has focused on descriptions of curriculum creation and modification within a single course or program. The work conducted under this grant ("Entrepreneurship Education and Its Impact on Engineering Student Outcomes") examined how three well-established entrepreneurship education programs (at Purdue, Penn State and NCSU) serve engineering students at the undergraduate level. Three specific areas were examined: program history and key characteristics; faculty beliefs; and student outcomes. Within these areas, we investigated and identified: Characteristics of entrepreneurial programs that enroll engineering students; Perspectives and practices of faculty who teach entrepreneurship to engineering students; Student outcomes of entrepreneurship education (i.e., attitudes, self-efficacy, knowledge, satisfaction with and retention in the engineering major); and Best practices for teaching entrepreneurship to engineering students. Study 1: Program Models included an in-depth review of three models of entrepreneurship education that serve large numbers of undergraduate engineering students. A paper exploring the relationship between program model characteristics and student outcomes appeared in the November 2012 Special Issue of Advances in Engineering Education. Study 2: Faculty Beliefs examined faculty beliefs and attitudes toward entrepreneurship education. Interviews were conducted with 26 faculty members and instructors who teach entrepreneurship courses to engineering students. The results of the interviews were used to develop a survey disseminated to 37 additional faculty members with a response rate of 79%. A comprehensive paper discussing both the qualitative study and the survey analysis was later published in the International Journal of Engineering Education and presented at the 2012 annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education. The journal, Advances in Engineering Education, accepted for inclusion in a special issue published in 2014, another paper that came out of this study entitled, "The Role of Entrepreneurship Program Models and Experiential Activities on Engineering Student Outcomes" (Duval-Couetil, Shartrand, & Reed). Study 3: Student Outcomes investigated entrepreneurship education outcomes that resulted in a final dataset of 501 engineering students at the three institutions involved in the study and resulted in several conference presentations and papers. During the course of this grant examining student outcomes related to entrepreneurship education within engineering programs, the issue of intellectual property policy emerged. The investigators observed that when faculty or staff are unable to clearly articulate intellectual property policy to students and /or when it is perceived to be unfairly in favor of the institution, it inhibits innovation and prevents students from obtaining feedback and assistance that could help advance their innovations or ventures. Little research has explored this issue, suggesting that many product innovation and entrepreneurship courses and programs are created with limited consideration of institutional IP policies, despite the significant impact that these policies – or their interpretations by students – may have on innovation outcomes and learning. To address this need to incorporate institutional IP policy into the undergraduate engineering and entrepreneurship curriculum, NCIIA identified gaps that impede the pursuit of high potential discoveries and product innovation by students and faculty with respect to Intellectual Property. Our research data and testimonials collected from students and faculty indicate that student involvement in the creation of intellectual property is accelerating despite a significant IP literacy gap amongst students. The technologies and resources accessible to student innovators are becoming increasingly diverse and powerful -- in many cases culminating in the creation of IP with meaningful social and commercial value. Case study results support the proposition that institutions with clearer or more student-friendly language in their IP policies tend to produce more innovation and associated entrepreneurial ventures. The work conducted under this grant strengthens and champions student entrepreneurship and innovation by raising awareness, promoting transparency and, in certain cases, proposing substantive changes to institutional intellectual property policies and technology transfer management at academic institutions across the country and around the world. In examining student outcomes related to entrepreneurship education within engineering programs, IP policy as it relates to undergraduate students emerged as a pivotal issue and barrier to technology innovation and "tech transfer." Through webinars, videos and online classes that NCIIA produced and widely disseminated under this grant, students will better understand their institution's IP policy. As undergraduate engineering students increasingly perceive their universities as enablers of, rather than barriers to, technology transfer, the "tech transfer" pipeline becomes more robust -- the gateway through which ideas move from the lab to the marketplace.