Engineering students at Villanova University are teaming up to develop a new game, toy or service for young children. It’s part of a “Creativity and Innovation” course within Villanova’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor, a unique collaboration between the College of Engineering and the Villanova School of Business (VSB).
On Oct. 6, sophomore engineering students worked alongside professionals from the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia during an on-campus workshop focused on product design, child education and entrepreneurship. The group looked at existing toys and games, and discussed the pros and cons from the aspect of child development.
Speak to the experts on Engineering Entrepreneurship:
Ed Dougherty, Interim Director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor
Pritpal Singh, PhD, Professor
*Media wanting to speak with Engineering Entrepreneurship faculty should contact the Media Relations Department (610-519-5152).
What started as a collegial idea – a brainstorm between faculty in the College of Engineering and VSB about an Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor – quickly became a new academic offering. This May, the first cohort of engineering undergraduate students will complete this minor, which is in its third year.
“This minor is not about going out and starting a company,” said Edmond Dougherty, Visiting Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Interim Director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor. “Rather, it is about bringing an entrepreneurial way of thinking to any business or company; that is the real value.”
The minor exposes students to engineering concepts in a business context. The first course, Creativity and Innovation, is offered at the beginning of sophomore year, followed by classes covering topics such as new product ideation and development, intellectual property, project management, prototyping, new product marketing, risk management, team development, project funding, and product launch.
“The curriculum is meant to help students understand the whole picture,” says Dougherty. “For example, when you are designing a part for a machine, you still need to understand the business side of things and ask ‘why am I designing this part, what is the practical application, who will this part benefit, and how will it be marketed?’”
After the classroom introduction to entrepreneurship, which includes research and guest lectures from real-life entrepreneurs, the program culminates with the opportunity for students to work in teams to develop and launch a new business, service, or product.
Students who complete this program not only learn valuable engineering skills, but also how to link technology with marketplace needs, giving them the opportunity to become entrepreneurs themselves or intrapreneurs in the companies where they work.
Dougherty, an entrepreneur himself for the past 30 years and current President and CEO of Ablaze Development, concurs. “Companies can only grow with engineers who bring an entrepreneurial mindset to their work,” he says. “The role of engineers is changing, as a lot of people can do the nuts and bolts; there needs to be a focus on innovation and creativity to keep American companies thriving. It is becoming less about the details and more about high-level, creative technologies.”
This new dynamic and focus on integration is reflected in how students are being taught to think.
“Business students and engineering students are used to finding solutions to problems within the confines of their own disciplines; we wanted to change that,” said Dr. James Klingler, Assistant Professor of Management and Operations the Villanova School of Business. “Engineering students with strong business acumen can help save American innovation from obscurity; the feeling of creativity in our country needs to be rekindled.”
Now more than ever, engineers are required to bring a broad view of the world, business environment, and best approaches to problem-solving to their work. Students who complete the Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor gain unique insight into each of these areas and the opportunities that emerge when they intersect.