STORIES

At SCU, We’re KEEN on Innovation:

keen-AerospacePromoting an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset among our students leads to lots of fun and excitement in the School of Engineering.
    
Courses that encourage interdisciplinary teamwork, contests that pair engineering undergrads with business majors to develop a product or solve a problem for BMW or NVIDIA, or NASA/Ames, co-ops, speaker series, mentoring, and club activities are all part of a program designed to encourage out-of-the-box thinking.
    
With a belief that entrepreneurialism can be learned and cultivated, and bolstered by a recent $1,142,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation, Santa Clara University has joined KEEN, the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network of about 20 universities throughout the country that are collaborating to improve the manner in which innovation and entrepreneurship is taught to undergraduate engineering students. This is allowing the School of Engineering to provide lots of opportunities for students to stretch themselves beyond their engineering disciplines in order to become creative thinkers, to identify the needs of customers, to understand the financial and logistic aspects of creating products and services, and to be aware of the societal impacts of their work. SCU faculty members Christopher Kitts, director of the Robotics Systems Laboratory, and Ruth Davis, associate dean for undergraduate studies, head SCU’s KEEN program and lead KEEN schools in the area.

Screen Shot 2012-10-16 at 11In addition to borrowing best practices from other schools in the KEEN network, the new grant has a mandate for Santa Clara to lead other KEEN schools in the area of developing real products and services for real customers through hands-on, interdisciplinary project development activities, an area in which Santa Clara is seen as being best-in-class. To do this, graduate and undergraduate students have been working with peers from other KEEN universities such as Milwaukee School of Engineering, St. Louis University, and Baylor University, in order to develop advanced marine systems for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) scientists and to install satellite operations equipment in order to control a series of NASA spacecraft.
    
“KEEN funding provides an exceptional opportunity for our engineering students to gain experience harnessing technical innovation for direct customer benefit and becoming actively involved in project management, systems engineering, financial planning, costing, etc., while working with and learning from their peers in the business school and in partnering institutions,” said Kitts. “A number of our senior design teams include one or more business majors who work alongside the engineers all year on their capstone projects.”

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