Entrepreneurial Mindset Development in a Senior Design/Capstone Course
2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
Capstone courses for senior engineering students may be organized in numerous ways. Usually, the goal is to give students a significant development and design experience that will prepare them well for their work following graduation. Sometimes the focus of a capstone course is on solving technical problems of an advanced project. Sometimes the focus is on getting the students to produce a design based on the scope provided by an industry partner. Sometimes the focus is on giving the students a
... rich experience in how a team works together. Sometimes the focus is on the business side of projects and engineering. Sometimes the focus is on covering material that doesn't fit in any of the other regular courses. Most capstone courses try to form some balance between these and other competing topics and expectations, but with everchanging teaching faculty, maintaining a consistent, well-packaged, and well-delivered capstone course from year to year is a challenge. For the past several years at Calvin College, we have been exploring a number of ways to cohesively bring our capstone experience together for the students and at the same time help our students develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Our goal is not to develop every student into an entrepreneur; our goal is to help all engineering students think like an entrepreneur when faced with multi-faceted problems. Our idea of an entrepreneurial mindset in our students is that each will be oriented and prepared to aid and abet entrepreneurism whether in a new business or an existing business (intrapreneurship). In the Engineering Department, we have allied ourselves with Business Department faculty such that all engineering students develop business plans for their projects. Furthermore, business students in an upper-level strategies course work with specific engineering design teams. This year we have also begun an emphasis on identifying the customer and responding to the customer's needs. Alumni, Business Department faculty, and Enterprise Center personnel are involved in assessing the initial ideas that each senior design team is proposing. In addition, specific lectures have been prepared and given to the class that introduce the concept and value of having an entrepreneurial mindset. This paper will explore further the recent changes to our capstone course and provide some early feedback from students and constituents on the changes. We plan to work with our Industry Advisory Council to get their feedback on the proposed changes and plan to provide detailed questionnaires to the students at the end of the second semester of the course.