The Engineering Unleashed Faculty Development Program, presented by the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), highlights entrepreneurially minded learning as central to the development of graduates prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world. Each year, the program attracts more than 200 engineering and STEM faculty who create resources that will help them and intercollegiate colleagues advance the mission to integrate the entrepreneurial mindset into practices that benefit their students, their institutions, and greater society. As part of the workshop, participants identify potential projects and hone their ideas with coaches for up to one year, after which select faculty are nominated and named Engineering Unleashed Fellows. The 2020 cohort of Fellows includes Assistant Teaching Professor Dr. Deeksha Seth, Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Known for her work on interactive robots that can present integrated biology and engineering principles to K-12 students in classrooms and museums, Dr. Seth also finds ways of incorporating creativity into her Villanova courses and undergraduate assignments. For one of her two Engineering Unleashed projects, she employs a Saturday Night Live skit (which she credits a former Drexel colleague for sharing with her) involving a Christmas sweater meant to impress a girlfriend to communicate the importance of following the design process, understanding the client and client’s needs, establishing clear objectives, and evaluating outcomes based on those objectives.
In Dr. Seth’s second Engineering Unleashed project, she uses state-of-the-art innovations to present how various branches and topics within Mechanical Engineering apply towards the design and evaluation of complex designs and how other academic disciplines also connect to engineering. Working in teams, students are given an innovation such as a 3-D printer, drone or virtual reality goggles, which they then research to understand its applications and technology. They first develop a concept map that connects each of the ME courses in the curriculum to the development of the assigned innovation, and then connect other engineering disciplines (e.g., civil, electrical, computer, etc.). Finally, each student on the team is assigned a non-engineering academic discipline (e.g., business, political science, social science, or natural science), whose contribution they also relate to the innovation. “The purpose is to increase awareness and appreciation among Mechanical Engineering students about how different ME core courses, engineering disciplines and non-engineering academic disciplines connect to create successful innovations that solve societal problems,” she explains. As Dr. Seth continues to refine this project through her fellowship, she will host webinars to share the activity and results with faculty nationwide. She says, “This is to increase the adoption of the activity in multiple departments across universities and to gather more data for the research.”
Dr. Seth’s objectives are well defined: “As a fellow, my goal is to use what I have learned from the program, working with other KEEN faculty members to update how design is taught and incorporated in engineering education and to emphasize integration and connections within engineering and other academic disciplines.” She adds: “An engineer/designer in the 21st century should not just be good at mathematics, technical and analytical things but also be well-versed in their ability to view engineering problems in a larger, societal context, understand how to collaborate and communicate with people from outside their field and identify/appreciate the role others will play. Engineers don’t work in a bubble, all breakthrough innovations envelope multiple branches of engineering and multiple academic disciplines.”