Conference Dates

January 12-16, 2003


There is general agreement that entrepreneurial thinking and attitudes can be learned and fostered. But how do colleges and universities really prepare students for the challenges of being a bootstrap startup entrepreneur, or being a product innovator in an existing company? Guiding this shift from entrepreneurial thinking-to-doing is the ultimate value of any entrepreneurship program. This presentation summarizes Penn State’s approach to moving entrepreneurial minds from the classroom to the business world in an Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor. First, sophomore and junior year students interested in technology entrepreneurship are actively recruited from the colleges of business, engineering and school of IST (Information Sciences and Technology). Cross-university participation ensures diverse project teams. Within the Minor, a 'cross-skills' core course is required: engineering and IST students take a 'business basics' course, and business students take an 'engineering basics' course. This course establishes students’ expertise and confidence in doing work outside their major, and appreciation of their team members’ skills. Students also work on a minimum of three product/process design teams, repeatedly executing the idea-to-product viability evaluation including marketing and finance analysis, and product prototyping. Students see the value of solid team communications, creative problemsolving, and tough evaluation of their solutions by non-academic judges. During the senior year, students work on Stage I teams, either doing “starter-technology” business assessment and product prototyping for a Penn State technology researcher, or working with a local high-tech company in a new product development and launch. Stage II projects are challenging out-of-comfort-zone experiences for the students, with fixed deadlines, firm deliverables, intellectual property issues, and tough go-no go decisions. Expected enrollment in the new Engineering Entrepreneurship (E-SHIP) Minor is 150 students per year by 2004. The E-SHIP Minor is a collaborative effort of the College of Engineering, Smeal College of Business Administration, and the School of IST, with generous support from the GE Learning Excellence Fund and the NCIIA.