Integrating Business Concepts and Entrepreneurship into an Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum Using Case Studies

DS 69: Proceedings of E&PDE 2011, the 13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, London, UK, 08.-09.09.2011

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Effa, David; Nespoli, Oscar; Lambert, Steve
Series: E&PDE
Section: Design Education and Business 2
Page(s): 71-76


The University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's Technology Triangle, has a national reputation as the most innovative University in Canada, largely as a result of the success of its co-operative education program and its management of intellectual property. The University lays no claim to intellectual property generated by faculty, thus encouraging innovation. Waterloo started the first Canadian co-operative education program, engineering is 100% co-op, all programs offer a co-operative education option, and as a result Waterloo has one of the largest co-operative education programs in the world. Most engineering departments have a strong but conventional engineering curriculum, focussed on engineering science with a sprinkling of engineering design. All engineering programs require at least one course in engineering economics, and there are innovative programs to support students who have an entrepreneurial vision: a residence dedicated to students who wish to develop entrepreneurial ideas (VeloCity), a Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program, and Enterprise Co-op for students who wish to spend a work term starting their own business. However, more can be done to provide a business foundation for all students, and to motivate some students to develop their vision, to promote creativity, and to provide them with the necessary skills to realise their vision. Engineering design cases are a tool to allow students to see the complexity of engineering practice, to gain experience and develop the skills to deal with this complexity, and to make connections between various topics in their undergraduate curriculum. They are an ideal mechanism to emphasize the importance of business issues in engineering design, and to promote the creative solutions to problems. To be effective, students must be exposed to a wide range of cases, covering a wide range of concepts, in a wide range of contexts. This requires a sustainable supply of diverse cases. The Waterloo Cases in Design Engineering (WCDE) group at Waterloo has been established to generate engineering design case studies, primarily from our own students’ experiences on co-op work terms, and has recently begun generating these cases at a minimum rate of 30 per year. This offers a unique opportunity to implement these cases pervasively throughout the curriculum. WCDE cases range from very analytical to highly creative, and the context varies from large multinational corporations to start-ups. Since the cases are derived from our own student experiences, they are inherently motivating. Results to date will be summarized, with a focus on building an appreciation of the business context for engineering design using cases which demonstrate engineering science concepts, and promoting creativity in engineering design.

Keywords: Business cases, design case studies, promoting creativity, design education


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