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SIU Designs New Innovation and Sustainability Hub

Leveraging the work of seven Innovation Fellows on campus, Southern Illinois University Carbondale is launching a new Innovation and Sustainability Hub. The project, which is currently in the design phase, represents a collaboration between the Center for Innovation and the Sustainability Office at SIU.  Located in the Student Center and opening during the week of April 4, the Hub will showcase both innovation and sustainability on the SIU campus.

The University Innovation Fellows are working with an undergraduate design class, Design Process and Presentation, to remake the space, which was an old Starbucks location. Read more. SIU has been actively involved in the University Innovation Fellows program since 2013. Read more.

New Innovation Fellows at Wichita State

The two groups of WSU University Innovation Fellows, with Engineering Dean Royce Bowden, center.

Wichita State has added five new Innovation Fellows, which adds to the four Innovation Fellows added last year.  Last year’s group included Wesley Alexis, Austin Crane, Hannah Hund, Kevin Kraus and Saad Syed. This year’s group includes:

  • Jocelyn Galicia, sophomore, business major
  • Jesus Gomez, junior, engineering major
  • LaRissa Lawrie, junior, communication major
  • Michael Schlesinger, sophomore, business major
  • Caylin Wiley, senior, engineering major

You can read more about their plans here.

Hack of the Week: Orientation Scavenger Hunt

This week’s hack is from Florida Tech’s Pathways team: they re-designed their freshman orientation activities with a scavenger hunt for new students. The hunt took students around campus to show them where to find makerspaces and other opportunities for innovation. Check out the video below. Want to know more? Email team co-leader Beshoy Morkos.

What’s your Hack? Hacks are bite-sized, practical resources for transforming engineering education. Email us to submit an idea.

Go Slow to Go Fast?

Apparently this saying comes from martial arts (I’d wondered). Maybe it works in that context – but when it comes to strategies for transforming engineering education, I have an amendment to put forward.

I’m always interested in the issue of “pace” in conversations with schools thinking about transformation in engineering education. On one hand, schools that are already considering change have – at a certain level – already made a decision and just want to get on with it. They’re also usually veterans (or victims) of a strategic planning process that seemed both interminable and ineffectual.

On the other hand, the nature of academia – and perhaps STEM fields in particular – is that some of the best results need a long time to develop. Many people in the corporate world would argue that the institution of tenure also contributes to a culture in which the expectation of quick results is very low. As a former colleague of mine – who had previously worked in a very fast-paced New York media organization – once said, “The only time we would have ever had a meeting this long was if we were shutting the whole place down!”

“Agile strategy” announces its difference right up front – it’s quick, both to implement and adapt. This causes a certain cognitive dissonance for many academics. Here are some of the questions I’ve heard more than once in guiding the Pathways teams using strategic doing as a specific methodology for agile strategy:

  • “How do we know we’re considering all the options?”
  • “How do we know we’ve picked the very best place to start?”
  • “Don’t we have to get all the stakeholders on board first?”

My answers – “you don’t,” “it doesn’t matter as much as you think,” and, well, “no” – aren’t particularly comforting. But, when a team finds the courage to pick a tiny corner of their world to start working on, one that they don’t need permission to address, and begins doing the work, something extraordinary often happens. They (usually) get a taste of success that keeps them motivated. They gain confidence in their ability to identify the options and pick the right one(s). And people watching them – and there are always people watching, if they make “sharing small successes” part of their plan – are drawn to the chance to make something happen. Soon their small success is multiplied and turns into much more significant change.

If their first effort isn’t successful (which is sometimes the case for a variety of reasons), it’s critical for teams to quickly rebound – or as the disciples of agile put it, to pivot. Good teams will immediately debrief, extract lessons and then pick a new tack and get moving again. What they don’t do is to blame the approach – “if we hadn’t moved so quickly, we wouldn’t have failed.” Failure sometimes happens – but an agile approach will help ensure that failures are small, early, and don’t call the entire endeavor into question.

Go small – not slow –  to go fast. That’s my new motto.

Colorado School of Mines Leading the World

QS Education, which connects students from all over the world with university programs, just added “mineral and mining engineering” to their categories for rankings.  The top school – beating out those famous schools everyone thinks of right away – is Colorado School of Mines (full ranking list here). The site uses academic and employer reputation and several research-oriented metrics.

Not content to rest on their laurels, Mines – which is a Pathways to Innovation school – has plenty of new initiatives going on to transform their students’ learning experiences. We’re hoping to feature their work in a longer blog post and a Hack of the Week soon – but for now, congratulations!



Hack of the Week: Improving Fluid Mechanics Learning

If you teach fluid mechanics, check out the unit Andy Gerhart‘s developed at Lawrence Tech to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset along with mastering the engineering content. The school is one of the KEEN campuses and Andy recently did a webinar with KEEN – watch it and get the materials here.

Do you have a Hack to share? Email us. Each Hack of the Week is a bite-sized, practical tip or resource for improving engineering education.

Missouri S&T recognizes Bonnie Bachman

Bonnie Bachman leads the Pathways to Innovation initiative on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus.  In late February, her colleagues at Missouri S&T recognized Bonnie for her work in developing and teaching entrepreneurship courses and programs.  She received the Experiential Learning Award which “recognizes faculty and staff who go beyond mastering basic skills and knowledge in the application of that material to problem-solving challenges. Their work involves collaboration and reflective learning and allows students to learn in environments that suit their aptitudes.”

Read more about Bonnie’s award here. Experiential learning is at the core of the Missouri S&T mission. You can read more about the University’s focus here.

Hack of the Week: Re-thinking Advisory Boards

This week’s Hack is from Pathways school University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, which was tired of advisory boards that gathered a few times a year to “share information.” They’ve launched the Fellowship of External Doers (click the link to read the group’s motto, if nothing else), complete with a Slack account to enable frequent communication. Email UPRM’s Ubaldo Cordova-Figueroa to learn more.

Have a Hack to share? Email us.

What’s the weather like where you are?

A few weeks ago we were in Phoenix with the 14 new teams in the Pathways program that’s part of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation. This was our third time around with this part of the program, and we have the benefit of having watched 36 teams already go through the arduous task of designing a strategy for change on their campus.

All the teams reached the finish line – after about 5 hours of work over two days, they could present their strategy in 60 seconds or less, complete with the metrics they’ll use to determine success and an action plan for the next 90 days. It seemed easier compared to our experience with the first groups – maybe this group of teams was more focused, or maybe we’re getting better at guiding them.

Still, it wasn’t smooth sailing for all the teams. A few had trouble at one point or another, either agreeing or getting to specifics. Why was that? It would be easy to point at an obstructionist team member or the sometimes-glacial pace of academic change.

The cause is more fundamental – every team has a moment in which success seems elusive, and that’s a good thing. It’s part of what Bruce Tuckman put forward as a model of group development, in which every group has to go through four stages:

  • Forming: the group is just gathering and sizing up the task ahead; many haven’t worked together before and are just getting to know one another.
  • Storming: familiarity breeds contempt – or at least, differences in workstyle or opinion arise. It’s uncomfortable for everyone. Good leadership can keep the group focused on the desired strategic outcome(s), while still acknowledging each member’s feelings.
  • Norming: in this stage, the group accepts one another’s differences – and welcomes all points of view – but agrees that the work overrides personal preferences. In Strategic Doing, there’s a suggested set of “Rules of Civility” that groups can agree on as a set of norms for working together.
  • Performing: the group knows how to conduct itself and resolve any differences and can focus on the challenge of plotting a course for change.

Some teams get from forming to performing quickly, others take more time. The teams in Phoenix that struggled aren’t necessarily in danger of disintegrating – in fact, they were in just the right place to get help working through the “storming phase” – so they can move on to high performance.
Where is your team, and how can you move to performing?

Lawrence Technological University Snags 3 Innovation Fellows

(From left) Heidi Morano, project engineer at Lawrence Technological University’s Studio for Entrepreneurial Engineering Design (SEED); LTU students Justin Becker, Leah Batty and Nada Saghir; and SEED Director Cristi Bell-Huff. Photo by LTU

Lawrence Technological University located in Southfield, MI near Detroit is now home to three University Innovation FellowsRead more.

The Innovation Fellows are connected to LTU’s Studio for Entrepreneurial Engineering Design, which launched in late 2014. Learn more about the Studio here.

You can connect with SEED Director Cristi Bell-Huff here: Connect with Heidi Morano, project engineer, here:

LTU is a member of the Kern Family Foundation’s Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network (KEEN). You can learn more about Lawrence from the KEEN website here.

Kern has awarded the university $2.4 million in grants. These funds were invested to move about 50 courses with problem-based learning and active-and-collaborative learning.

A key component of the program supported by previous [Kern] grants is the modification of close to 50 courses with problem-based learning and active-and-collaborative learning within an entrepreneurial context. Classroom work has been supplemented by co-curricular and extra-curricular entrepreneurial activities such as internships and industry-sponsored projects.

Lawrence Tech has also modified the freshman introduction to engineering course into an interdisciplinary design studio experience which incorporates the foundations of entrepreneurially minded learning.

Learn more.

Here’s how the President of LTU explains the value of entrepreneurial education.