Kurt Smith hoped to attract at least 20 students to his new program when he hung up a recruitment poster in the Engineering Lobby for a week last spring. In fact, he doubled that number by tapping into the entrepreneurial vein running through the engineering student body.
The Engineering Entrepreneurship Program (E-ship) launched by the college in fall 2008 has a first cohort of 41 students. A faculty member with the Engineering Management Program who is directing E-ship, Smith says the vast majority are juniors because of the program's two-year curriculum. But E-ship also attracted three seniors who have compressed the curriculum into one year in order to enjoy its full benefits.
"It's the icing on the cake for my education," says aerospace engineering senior Nick Little. "I have full intentions of starting a company as soon as I graduate."
The curriculum begins with the teaching of fundamental entrepreneurial skills through core courses in business management and leadership, high-technology marketing, and finance. After completion of these preparatory classes, students enroll in the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship's capstone course in business plan development, where engineering and business students work together to create business plans for the top ideas generated in the class.
Many of the business plans end up coordinating with the prototypes being created in the engineering students' senior design classes. At the end of the year, the student teams have a chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of business leaders and venture capitalists as part of the annual undergraduate business plan competition.