By Hannah Paton
The University received a $1 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation to continue its work as a member of the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network, or KEEN program.
The grant marks the second given to the University for this program, the first being a $75,000 scholarship received in the Fall of 2011, according to Dean of the College of Engineering Keith Buffinton. This grant will continue to further the KEEN program’s goal of providing entrepreneurial skills and techniques to engineering students.
“The grant will fund four main aspects of the engineering program: it will continue competitions and workshops, promote course development and changes to the intro course Engineering 100, and involve more faculty,” Buffinton said.
According to Buffinton, the grant fosters extracurricular opportunities such as K-WIDE, the KEEN Winter Interdisciplinary Design Experience, and various competitions and workshops designed to give students 48 to 72 hours to create a new and efficient gadget. Buffinton said that in the last competition 10 teams of two to four students had 48 hours to create the most efficient beverage cooler.
In addition to competitions, changes to engineering courses in general will be made to create interdisciplinary classes and promote entrepreneurial thinking in engineering majors.
One example of such a change is the “elevator pitch” that several biomedical engineering classes now require, which tasks students with convincing a professor of their design in the short time span of an elevator ride. This exercise seeks to promote communication skills, persuasive qualities, and preparedness to speak confidently at any time.
The University is one of just over 20 institutions affiliated with the KEEN program. Buffinton said that he and other members hope that the grant will provide engineering students with a unique and useful set of career skills.