Innovate November 2016

Bringing The Entrepreneurial Spirit To Design


Written By: Erin Winick

Senior design is a fact of life for engineering students around the country — a chance to bring together skills they have learned and prove they are ready to function past college as an engineer. However, many of these programs are designed for students interested in academia or industry, excluding those with a passion for entrepreneurship. To change this experience, the University of Florida Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering has introduced Integrated Technology Ventures 2.0.

The original Integrated Technology Ventures (ITV), which launched in 2003, set the course for encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit in students enrolled in UF’s Integrated Product and Process Design (IPPD) program.

The IPPD program traditionally allows engineering and business students the chance to design, build and test authentic products for industrial sponsors. This year, the program was updated to do even more for students — ITV gave students the chance to build their own technology-based companies as a two semester senior design experience, with the support of the engineering college as well as business and legal support.

Dr. Keith Stanfill, director of the IPPD Program at UF, oversaw the introduction of the program in 2003 and was instrumental in implementing the pivotal changes in this year’s 2.0 version. Stanfill said he has seen a shift in the acceptance of entrepreneurship as an engineering career path during his time overseeing this program. “What we have found over time is that now entrepreneurship is getting to be part of the DNA and it is an accepted path forward,” Stanfill explained. “We are really encouraging it.”

After many successful companies, patents and student successes, the program was halted at the end of the spring 2015 semester in order to update ITV and make it even more reflective of today’s entrepreneurial journey.

David Whitney, assistant director of the Engineering Innovation Institute, is the mentor to this year’s ITV 2.0 team and has helped bring about the program’s changes. “The valuable changes to the ITV program were transformative in nature,” Whitney said. “The updated ITV – ITV 2.0 – reflected a more action-oriented approach by student entrepreneurs enrolled in the program. These student entrepreneurs are part of the IPPD program, yet they have the opportunity to operate as an entrepreneurial team in pursuit of commercial success in the marketplace.”

The college is giving these students as much of the true entrepreneurial experience as can be fit into two semesters. “Companies launched under the ITV 2.0 program are required to produce specific deliverables and meet predetermined milestones,” Whitney said. “Achieving the program’s deliverables and milestones requires much work and a high level of commitment. The deliverables include a Business Model Canvas, an investor pitch presentation, the building of working prototypes, the creation of an intellectual property outline, and lots of technical documentation.”

This Fall 2016 semester, six students are the first to test the waters of the revamped ITV 2.0 program and are both brainstorming their own technology ideas and working with technologies from the UF Office of Technology Licensing. “The student entrepreneurs enrolled in ITV 2.0 this semester have gone all in,” Whitney said. “They tackle challenges headon and are not afraid of extending themselves into unfamiliar territory. The team leverages its strengths and is not afraid to pursue success. In my opinion, they’ll be deeply disappointed if they fail in operating a successful company. Yet, they recognize their limitations and are very aware of mitigating risks.”

On top of the six students on the ITV 2.0 team this year, the rest of the students in the IPPD class will have the chance to get exposure to entrepreneurial topics in supplemental lectures to accompany the basic senior design curriculum. Stanhill says students on this ITV team are facing some additional challenges other senior design groups do not have to face. “There is already a problem defined for the other teams,” Stanhill said. “The amount of uncertainty this group has to deal with compared to the other students is almost an order of magnitude in difference.”

Despite the added challenge, Stanhill is happy to provide this revamped entrepreneurial opportunity to students. “Going the entrepreneurial route is a valuable option for post-graduation and I think the Gainesville community is really well situated to encourage this,” Stanhill said. “I think we are nurturing a new generation of calculated risk takers and I think they are going to chance the world, so I am excited about this whole process.”

For more information about UF’s Integrated Product and Process Design (IPPD) program, visit ippd.ufl.edu.

 

 

ERIN WINICK is currently a 5th year mechanical engineering student at the University of Florida. She is the founder of Sci Chic, a company that produces customizable science and engineering inspired jewelry, accessories and educational resources using 3D printing. Erin is also currently serving as a University Innovation Fellow within the University of Florida Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering Innovation Institute. Erin has interned at Keysight Technologies, John Deere, Solar Turbines and Bracken Engineering and enjoys freelances science and technical article writing on the side. You can find her on Twitter @bcofengineering.

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