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Kern Family Foundation Awards $625,000 to Engineering Entrepreneurship Program

With a three-year, $625,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation, students in the Engineering Entrepreneurship minor will have access to new intrapreneurship development and intercollegiate entrepreneurship opportunities. This funding accounts for nearly one third of a $2.2 million grant awarded to the newly formed Helping Hands Dense Network (HHDN), comprised of engineering entrepreneurship programs at Baylor University, the University of Dayton, and the University of Detroit Mercy, in addition to the College of Engineering. The HHDN is a dense network within the larger Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN), made up of 21 higher education institutions focused on graduating entrepreneurially-minded engineers.

“We are thrilled to receive such significant, ongoing support from the Kern Family Foundation, which was instrumental in helping us launch our engineering entrepreneurship program four years ago. We’re also excited to embark on new collaborative opportunities with our HHDN partners that will enhance curricula at each school,” says Edmond J. Dougherty EE ’69, MSCS ‘86, Director of the program. Dr. Gary Gabriele, Drosdick Endowed Dean of Engineering, and Dr. Pritpal Singh, Professor and Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, joined Dougherty as principal investigators for this grant.

HHDN will focus on two initiatives. Baylor University and the University of Detroit Mercy will build programming on “intrapreneurship,” which will teach students how to apply the entrepreneurial spirit within existing companies. The College of Engineering will work with the University of Dayton to facilitate intercollegiate projects, which will allow students to share resources and experiences in new collaborative ways. Faculty from each school will offer input on both initiatives.

For students at Villanova, the intercollegiate projects will offer a new avenue for completing senior capstone requirements. These collaborations may take one of three forms. First, student teams at more than one school may work on the same project and compare progress at regular intervals. Second, some projects may employ mixed teams of students from a variety of HHDN schools. Or third, some projects will involve students from one school handling prototype design, while another team conducts the testing, and yet another team fabricates the finished product.

Four teams are currently at work on intercollegiate projects. Two teams of mechanical engineering students, each working with teammates from their respective schools, are helping the Air Force on a challenge that involves moving personnel over a 20-foot wall. Two teams of electrical and computer engineering students, again working within their respective schools, are developing a way for NBA players to improve awareness of the shot clock during games. Teams from each project will compare progress together and offer ideas throughout the development process.

Dougherty also hopes to use some of the funding to create a pre-capstone experience, such as a “tinkerer’s lab,” where students can cultivate project inspiration. A post-capstone opportunity for students to improve the technical or aesthetic components of their prototypes may also be developed. In addition, Dougherty hopes to formalize the Forum for Innovation, Research, and Entrepreneurship to connect students with entrepreneurial alumni, as well as to continue summer faculty workshops.

Established by Drs. Robert and Patricia Kern in 1998, the Kern Family Foundation “seeks to enrich the lives of others by promoting strong pastoral leadership, educational excellence, and high quality, innovative engineering talent.” For more information, visit