Through the Entrepreneurs in Action program, Tennessee Tech’s College of Engineering and Vanderbilt’s Entrepreneurship Education Forum are collaborating to research and develop an online learning environment where students can learn how to create viable businesses based on what they learn from real-world case studies. The program presents students with problem-based projects, where students face questions about the social, economic, political, environmental and engineering policy issues related to each case.
“Although the forum provides lessons for students across disciplines, we are particularly interested in giving engineering students an opportunity to think like entrepreneurs and to immediately see applications of their engineering studies with real-world problems and business ventures,” said Glen Johnson, TTU’s College of Engineering dean.
Current projects under consideration include a study of the electrical blackout that fell on the eastern United States recently. Other topics include a study of ultra wideband wireless and battery technologies.
Vanderbilt’s Project Director Wilburn Clouse said the objective is to be a broad-based, cross-discipline approach with an emphasis on teaching students to see opportunities that others do not see and to stress self-employment and self-fulfillment.
“The general theme is to create a job, not take a job,” said Clouse.
In early experimental studies, Entrepreneurs in Action has developed sites in New York, New Mexico, Louisiana and Tennessee over the last five years. The new TTU-Vanderbilt partnership marks the first application of the program in a university setting. Ken Currie, director of TTU’s Center for Manufacturing research said he sees mutual benefits to students at both universities.
“The cross-disciplinary approach with Vanderbilt’s Human and Organizational Development program will greatly enhance our engineering students’ education, and Vanderbilt’s students will gain a better understanding of the social, political, environmental and economic applications of engineering ventures,” said Currie.
Supported by a National Science Foundation grant to Tennessee Tech to support and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of engineering and related disciplines, the project is funded to Vanderbilt through a sub-contract. TTU’s Johnson serves as the grant’s principal investigator.
“We hope to go online with these cross-disciplinary learning modules in Fall 2004,” said Clouse. “We plan to further develop the interdisciplinary nature of our work by adding selected classes from other schools and universities across the nation.”
The Entrepreneurs in Action program also interfaces with local small business. This project has connected with TechWerks, a Cookeville-based technology company that specializes in the identification and solution of technical problems in companies and organizations.
As part of the TTU research project, TechWerks is investigating new solutions to prescription drug distribution and accuracy. Application of such technology may have a profound impact on prescription drug dispensing and could affect programs including the Veterans’ Administration mail-order pharmacies and TennCare. TechWerks will work collaboratively with and serve as online experts for Entrepreneurs in Action.