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Helping to shape entrepreneurial mindset at the KEEN National Conference

Rachel Penton, Glenn Walters, Rich Goldberg, and Anna Engelke at the KEEN National Conference.
As part of their ongoing initiative to shape the future of engineering education, faculty and staff from the department of applied physical sciences (APS) and BeAM facilitated workshops at the recent KEEN National Conference. Rich Goldberg, teaching associate professor; Glenn Walters, professor of the practice; and Anna Engelke, BeAM education program manager, worked with engineering faculty at the conference to incorporate innovative strategies and problem-solving into engineering curricula.

The annual conference welcomes educators from across the country to engage with other leaders in education innovation to share teaching practices that incorporate entrepreneurial mindset (EM). The three key elements of EM – curiosity, connections, and creating value – are integrated into each course offered as part of the Applied Sciences and Engineering minor.

APS and BeAM representatives were joined by others from UNC including Rachel Penton and Viji Sathy from the UNC Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Bryant Hutson from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. “These individuals have been instrumental in our effort to integrate the entrepreneurial mindset into broader UNC coursework and assess overall impact,” Goldberg concludes.

Leaders in engineering education convene at the conference to present interactive workshops and share strategies to innovate the field. Engelke and Penton presented “Using mini-making projects in STEM classrooms to promote EML” and Goldberg presented a workshop entitled “EMERGE: Exploring the Unexpected Opportunities.” An additional UNC session was presented virtually by Sathy and Hutson, “Struggling with EM Assessment? Learn what COMPASS assessment tools can do for you.”

With hands-on learning style and an emphasis on EM, conference workshops featured a similar approach to how courses are taught back on UNC’s campus. “It is critical to keep the audience engaged and active,” Goldberg adds. “Then, they are able to identify and apply specific takeaways in a meaningful manner.”

Goldberg highlights the importance of staying up to date with innovations in engineering education and focusing on an entrepreneurial mindset. “It is important for us to understand new and innovative ideas that are being incorporated into engineering courses nationwide. This conference gave us the opportunity to engage with other leaders at the forefront of engineering education and showcase how we are contributing to advancements here at UNC.”

Among key takeaways from the conference was the goal to develop new ways of strengthening engagement with the APS Industry Advisory Board. “I hope to identify different ways to capitalize on the board’s expertise and ultimately utilize their guidance to further develop our program,” he says. “By doing so, we can further introduce new opportunities for students and faculty to interact with industry partners.”

According to Goldberg, another key takeaway was learning about a framework to incorporate ethics activities throughout the APSE minor curriculum . “Ethics lessons are commonplace in design courses, but they are typically much harder to incorporate into more technical-oriented classes,” he explains. “Ethics will have an impact on the engineering decisions that students make throughout their careers, so it is important that they think about ethical issues throughout our curriculum.”

“Participating in and presenting at this conference is an excellent way to showcase our proactive approach to fostering an entrepreneurial mindset,” Goldberg says. “We are demonstrating our ability to productively take what we’ve learned and share it with a broader audience.”