Dr. Massoud Tavakoli, professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Innovation to Entrepreneurship Across the University (i2e AU) program, wants to challenge Kettering University students to think differently. While complimenting the ability of Kettering students to solve problems, he wants them to consider the other end of the spectrum by becoming “problem finders” which will lead to opportunities for innovation.
Tavakoli has established an opportunity at Kettering to develop this mindset in the Innovation to Entrepreneurship Course of Study (i2e) that encourages students to focus on utilizing their technical skills to improve the lives of others for the greater good and achieve fulfillment in the process.
Required courses for i2e minor:
“This is part of our fundamental belief at Kettering that technology is going to improve the world but it has to be in the hands of people who are going to think that way as opposed to people who are good technically and will just use it to get a good job,” Tavakoli said.
Tavakoli led the development of the 18-credit i2e elective course of study which consists of classes that are unlike any others on campus. The classes emphasize coaching over lecturing, mindsets over routine course work and hands-on creative experience over theory. Students in the i2e course of study begin by being exposed to innovation activities (engineering design and applied science), followed by an exploration of the mindset and activities of successful and failed innovators and entrepreneurs.
The element of failure and recovery from it is emphasized in the course of study as the mindset that entrepreneurs have while traditional technical people may struggle with the ambiguity associated with it.
“We’re actually going to put signage that celebrates failure everywhere in the T-Space,” Tavakoli said. “Coping with failure is an entrepreneurial behavior that we want engineers to have.”
The T-Space is a recently constructed creative space on the second floor of the C.S. Mott Building that provides students with the resources and tools to experiment on class and personal projects. As of August 2014 it provides students access to 3D printing, laser cutting, soldering and other utilities to work on small electric and mechanical prototypes. The T-Space also serves as a Creativity Lab for the i2e course of study as it encourages students to practice the principles of the program.
“As a part of i2e, we needed a laboratory in which students can actually do tinkering and develop their ideas, hence the T-Space,” Tavakoli said. “The initial goal is to create a laboratory environment, to Think, Tinker and Thrive.”
In the senior i2e courses, students will develop faculty and peer mentoring relationships and networks while being encouraged to develop creative and innovative ideas in the name of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. The course of study concludes with an emphasis on prototyping activities in the newly developed T-Space along with coaching on business models and commercialization pathways.
“The most important thing we want students to get is a way of thinking that we associate with innovators and entrepreneurs,” Tavakoli said. “Some of those attributes are: not being discouraged by failure but seeing it as an opportunity for improvement; recognizing opportunities for innovation and business creation – that’s different from what engineers and science majors typically do, which is to creatively solve reasonably well-defined problem.”
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