KEEN i2e-AU faculty grants facilitate collaboration, infuse entrepreneurial learning into course curriculum

“These grants have been really instrumental in encouraging interaction between faculty across disciplines to develop new and innovative ways of teaching engineering, science, math, business and liberal studies subjects.”

Kettering University’s Innovation to Entrepreneurship Across the University (i2e-AU) initiative has awarded eight grants to faculty members to infuse Entrepreneurially Minded Learning (EML) into course material.

Each $8,000 grant provides faculty members with resources to revamp course curriculum and incorporate various aspects of innovation and EML into their individual courses.

“These grants have been really instrumental in encouraging interaction between faculty across disciplines to develop new and innovative ways of teaching engineering, science, math, business and liberal studies subjects,” said Dr. Massoud Tavakoli, Mechanical Engineering faculty member and director of the i2e-AU program at Kettering. “They have opened up new, cross-disciplinary channels of interaction, which drastically enhances faculty training and collaborative opportunities.”

Principal investigators for this year’s grants and their projects are:

  • Dr. James Cohen (Applied Biology) will be redesigning an Ecology course (BIOL 311) to focus on the remediation of ecological disasters, using real-life situations and data to determine impact and develop a solution based on engineering principles. Cohen will be collaborating with Dr. Farnaz Ghazi-Nezami (Industrial Engineering) on this project.

  • Dr. Gillian Ryan (Physics) plans to redesign the PHYS 224 course by setting it in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. How would students maintain essential services if a centralized electrical grid failed? Students would find solutions by applying knowledge of electricity and magnetism.

  • Dr. Nozar Tabrizi (Electrical and Computer Engineering) plans to introduce a team-based “jigsaw puzzle” model into the CE 201 course. The model will challenge students to make incremental improvements to a design of an electronic product and facilitate many different interactions between team members at different stages of the project.

  • Dr. Leszek Gawarecki (Mathematics) is leading a group that will be infusing EML into an undergraduate course in statistics through course projects related to social entrepreneurship, using United Nations data. He will be collaborating with Dr. Cheryl Samaniego (Applied Biology) and Professor Larry Navarre (Department of Business) on the project.

  • Dr. Vivian Kao (Liberal Studies) plans to redesign the Introduction to Humanities (HUMN 201) course to investigate how science and technological advancements have impacted the understanding of what it means to be human, using poetry, drama, fiction and visual arts to explore how science and technology influence humanity’s conceptions of what it is and what it is becoming. She will be collaborating with Dr. Terri Lynch-Caris (Industrial Engineering) on the project.

  • Dr. Susanta Das (Mechanical Engineering) is revamping the MECH 322 course so that students are instilled with curiosity about course material in a way that helps them connect concepts in the course to real-world engineering applications.

  • Dr. Xuan Zhou (Electrical and Computer Engineering) plans to revise content in the EE-591 Energy Storage System course to have students examine solutions to energy security questions. Namely, using EML, Zhou will have students evaluate alternative energy storage systems and recommend which are most viable and economical based on current energy security requirements.

  • Dr. Saroja Kanchi (Computer Science) will introduce the development of narrative systems into the CS 481-AI class. Students will build narrative systems suitable for transforming big data by developing an understanding of customer expectations and requirements while keeping how to create value for companies in mind.

The i2e-AU philosophy at Kettering emphasizes coaching over lecturing, augmenting routine coursework with mindsets and complementing theory with hands-on creative experience. Courses that have infused elements of i2e-AU have exposed students to innovation activities as well as the exploration of the mindset and activities of successful and failed innovators and entrepreneurs. The teaching of the entrepreneurial mindset is vital to helping students identify opportunities to create value in the world using the tools and technologies at their disposal.

Grants that have allowed faculty to revamp courses have also had the added benefit of creating new opportunities to work together.

“Faculty are sharing and integrating more information as a result of these grants,” Tavakoli said. “Faculty have to develop courses anyway, so these grants tie in with their core responsibilities but also connect them with their colleagues and resources in other academic disciplines. This is quite valuable.”

Funding for the grants is possible as a result of support from KEEN, the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network. KEEN’s mission is to graduate engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset so they can create personal, economic and societal value through a lifetime of meaningful work. The long-term goal is for these new engineers to catalyze a transformation in the workforce and to build economic and technical commerce in their communities.

Faculty who receive the grants have one year to develop and implement curriculum into their courses and begin assessing results. Although the program and efforts of faculty to infuse EML into courses are still new, results in terms of student response and learning outcomes are being examined. In the short term, all faculty who receive grants are also expected to create course modules that are shareable with colleagues. Dr. Matthew Sanders, Industrial Engineering faculty member, has accepted the charge of assessing the work produced by the grantees.

“This has created significant excitement,” said Dr. Mo Torfeh, Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty member and CETL Faculty Fellow. “This is a very valuable and influential tool on campus that is a mechanism for bringing faculty together and sharing new ideas and information.” As a member of i2e-AU team, Torfeh has led the effort to promote and facilitate the KEEN-i2e grants.

The collaborations across disciplines highlighted in these grants were facilitated through the resources and faculty connections within the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). Prof. Torfeh was one of the first CETL Faculty Fellows with a goal to increase faculty peer-to-peer interaction and promote educational scholarship.

Among weekly CETL programs, the i2e Teaching Circle has allowed grant recipients the opportunity to share their experiences.

“These collaborative talks have encouraged more faculty to submit proposals” said Dr. Terri-Lynch Caris, Director of CETL and Industrial Engineering faculty member. “Overall, the i2e-AU initiative has improved the classroom experience for literally hundreds of students by inspiring faculty to innovate, assess and share their teaching innovations.”