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Suggested Citation:"Lehigh University." National Academy of Engineering. 2012. Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18184.

Integrated Product Development and Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation

Lead Institution: Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA

Collaborating Institutions: Industry, local/state government and federal agencies, nonprofit agencies and foundations, academic institutions

Category: Capstone/Industry/Entrepreneurship

Date Implemented: 1994




Program Description: Lehigh’s Integrated Product Development (IPD) program started with the three pillars of new product development: engineering, business, and design. We had no industrial design program so we created what we call “design arts.” The objectives are: 1) to prepare graduates with the ability to “hit the ground running” at their first real-world job, and for those with an entrepreneurial bent, 2) to create their own jobs by developing products and launching companies. The development of “higher-order” skills and an “entrepreneurial mindset” has become increasingly important. This mindset includes innovation, creativity, diversity, interdisciplinarity, global orientation, ethical behavior, leadership, and teamwork. Lehigh’s entrepreneurship ecosystem features 10 entrepreneurship-related campus organizations, 17 educational programs, 34 courses, and 22 labs, shops, and related facilities. Programs are open to all undergraduate and graduate students. Our for-profit partners had a main objective of preparing our students to be successful new employees, while the government agencies supported our entrepreneurship programs to foster economic development. In 2011, 192 students from Engineering, Design Arts (College of Arts & Sciences), and Supply Chain Management (College of Business and Economics) worked in 28 teams on industry-sponsored projects first introduced at our beginning-of-the-semester Industry Project Fair. Funded projects come from alumni working in established companies, local entrepreneurs, and student entrepreneurs. With the 2010 launch of the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation, the IPD program was subsumed into a university-wide entrepreneurship initiative that includes the entrepreneurship minor, new programs in technical entrepreneurship, and new courses in social entrepreneurship. The Baker Institute has an external board of advisers and an internal curriculum and program oversight committee. Each fall for the past 10 years the faculty have organized and judged the many dozens of entries annually in our campus-wide entrepreneurship competitions. These competitions and advocacy initiatives include focus areas such as technical innovations, fashion, art, software, alumni, and women entrepreneurs.

Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: Students completing the two IPD capstone courses should be able to: identify and define key technical and business components of technical problems; design effective solutions to these problems in a broad global business and social context; demonstrate an understanding of an entrepreneurial mindset; participate in and lead an interdisciplinary product development team; effectively communicate through written, oral, and graphical presentations; address aesthetics and ergonomics issues in product development; develop a value statement for the product/process to be developed; design, create, and evaluate technical and financial feasibility studies; manage people and financial resources; and successfully apply appropriate analytical, numerical, virtual, or physical models at appropriate times throughout the process. We anticipate that students completing this course sequence should reduce the start-up training when they are first employed, which has been reported to take up to two years without IPD.

Assessment Information: We measure our programs by assessing student performance, collecting feedback from industry experts, and tracking program growth. Assessment tools have been designed to measure students’ performance, output, or artifacts in a given area by observing actual work in real time so the feedback may be used by the students to improve their work. Rubrics have been developed for this purpose as well as to provide consistency across all teams, projects, and advisers. Twenty-one rubrics for each team are completed throughout the semester by faculty, fellow students, and industry experts and another nine for each individual student. At the end of each semester the industry sponsors and entrepreneurs provide indirect, summative program assessment via a comprehensive questionnaire focusing on the programs’ infrastructure and work done with/by the student team, and every student provides feedback via a customized course evaluation. Program growth is measured in numbers of students enrolled in courses and number of courses offered.

Funding/Sustainability: Three faculty started the IPD program with their own time and resources. In four years the program attracted nine sponsors who provided an average of $2,500 each for 20 student teams. In 1998 Lehigh’s president converted an abandoned campus building to use for student projects, with alumni providing over $4.5M. In 1999 the program was funded on the university budget. Its director received a three-year renewable appointment with release time of two courses/year, tuition, and teaching assistant and part-time support staff stipends. Funding sources include: faculty volunteers, university budget, industry sponsors, alumni, congressional earmarks, state agencies, and foundations. To secure a scalable and sustainable program, we built our program and courses into the curriculum as required courses or electives. In the university approval process for courses and programs, the sponsoring departments, colleges, and provost must build faculty and staff support into the university budget. A generous gift from the Baker Foundation launched the Baker Institute in 2010.

Suggested Citation:"Lehigh University." National Academy of Engineering. 2012. Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18184.
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The aim of this report is to encourage enhanced richness and relevance of the undergraduate engineering education experience, and thus produce better-prepared and more globally competitive graduates, by providing practical guidance for incorporating real world experience in US engineering programs. The report, a collaborative effort of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), builds on two NAE reports on The Engineer of 2020 that cited the importance of grounding engineering education in real world experience. This project also aligns with other NAE efforts in engineering education, such as the Grand Challenges of Engineering, Changing the Conversation, and Frontiers of Engineering Education.

This publication presents 29 programs that have successfully infused real world experiences into engineering or engineering technology undergraduate education. The Real World Engineering Education committee acknowledges the vision of AMD in supporting this project, which provides useful exemplars for institutions of higher education who seek model programs for infusing real world experiences in their programs. The NAE selection committee was impressed by the number of institutions committed to grounding their programs in real world experience and by the quality, creativity, and diversity of approaches reflected in the submissions. A call for nominations sent to engineering and engineering technology deans, chairs, and faculty yielded 95 high-quality submissions. Two conditions were required of the nominations: (1) an accredited 4-year undergraduate engineering or engineering technology program was the lead institutions, and (2) the nominated program started operation no later than the fall 2010 semester. Within these broad parameters, nominations ranged from those based on innovations within a single course to enhancements across an entire curriculum or institution.

Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education is intended to provide sufficient information to enable engineering and engineering technology faculty and administrators to assess and adapt effective, innovative models of programs to their own institution's objectives. Recognizing that change is rarely trivial, the project included a brief survey of selected engineering deans concern in the adoption of such programs.

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