2019 FYEE Conference

Full Paper: Can a First Day Activity Help Raise Customer Awareness, an Important Attribute of an Entrepreneurially Minded Engineer?

Presented at M2C: Learning by Design 2

Can a First Day Activity Help Raise Customer Awareness, an Important Attribute of an Entrepreneurially Minded Engineer?

This abstract for a full paper describes an Entrepreneurial Mindset (EM) infused first day team based hands-on design activity for the introduction to engineering course and its effectiveness at raising customer awareness. During the recent years, many institutions across the nation have joined the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network (KEEN) that aims to promote entrepreneurial mindset in engineering education [1]. The attributes of an entrepreneurially minded engineer depicted by KEEN involves technical skillset, customer awareness, business acumen, and societal value [2]. Quite a few authors have also emphasized the importance of incorporating customers in course activities especially design projects in order to instill the entrepreneurial mindset in the curriculum [3-5].

In an effort to incorporate the entrepreneurial mindset into the introduction to engineering course, a first day team based hands-on design activity was developed, among many other activities and projects. And it was implemented during the fall 2018 semester in a section of the course with 37 students during the first lab before students were introduced to any topics or concepts. The activity involves two rounds. Most teams failed to consider who the customers and what their needs were and created designs based on their own assumptions about the problem. Designs were tested at the end of the first round and to students’ surprising, what they thought would be great designs turned out to be not successful. Discussions led to students realizing why their designs did not work. During the second round, students properly identified customer needs and created new designs to address customer needs.

Can this first day activity help raise customer awareness, an important attribute of an entrepreneurially minded engineer in first year students? To answer this question, a survey was conducted prior to the activity to gauge students’ understanding of how to approach design problems. Not surprisingly, only one out of thirty one students who provided consent to participate mentioned ‘one would have to question and research those who are affected by the problem’ in their pre-survey response. After the first lab, students individually submitted reflections about their first lab experience and these reflections were analyzed. It was found out that twenty four out of the thirty one students mentioned the importance of asking customers questions and learning about their needs without being prompted to talk about customers. Out of these twenty four students, eleven mentioned this in more than one places in their reflections.

In the full paper, the activity will be described and the findings will be presented. Tips to successfully implement this activity will also be discussed and suggested changes will be shared.


[1] https://engineeringunleashed.com/

[2] Kriewall, T. J., and K. Mekemson. 2010. Instilling the entrepreneurial mindset into engineering undergraduates, Journal of Engineering Entrepreneurship no. 1 (1):5–19.

[3] Gerhart, A. L., & Melton, D. E. (2016, June), Entrepreneurially Minded Learning: Incorporating Stakeholders, Discovery, Opportunity Identification, and Value Creation into Problem-Based Learning Modules with Examples and Assessment Specific to Fluid Mechanics, Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26724

[4] Bell-Huff, C., & Morano, H. L. (2017, June), Using Simulation Experiences, Real Customers, and Outcome Driven Innovation to Foster Empathy and an Entrepreneurial Mindset in a Sophomore Engineering Design Studio, Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27425

[5] Zhu, H., & Mertz, B. E. (2017, June), Work In Progress: Incorporation of the Entrepreneurial Mindset into the Introduction to Engineering Course, Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/29164

  1. Dr. Haolin Zhu Arizona State University [biography]
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