Many colleges and universities work to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) among students. Teaching either concept can be an esoteric pursuit, full of buzzwords and hard-to-implement ideas, but after making the decision to drive a new approach to I&E, Tennessee Tech University (TTU) immediately won a competition to be one of the first cohorts in the National Science Foundation Pathways to Innovation Program run by Epicenter and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA).
The effort of this Pathways team led to the launch of the EagleWorks student competition and the iMakerSpace, as well as providing a model for many schools to follow – by combining a range of resources and access points. Under the leadership of both the Colleges of Engineering and Business, the TTU iMakerSpace serves as a central location on campus to provide training, service, partnership, research and evaluation in Innovation and Entrepreneurship to all disciplines.
“In today’s economy, it is imperative for all students to acquire an entrepreneurial mindset. College graduates need to enter the workforce skilled in assessing complex problems, conceiving innovative solutions and developing scalable solutions, whether they join a company or non-profit organization or start a new venture,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter.
iMakerSpace supports NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates
The space hosts an Internet of Things Platform for Engineering Education and Research known as IoT PEER. Thanks to the College of Engineering, via the iMakerSpace, the IoT testbed has become an area of collaborative innovation and interdisciplinary research.
If you have heard of the Lean Startup concept, then the Tenn Tech I-Corps is worth checking out. The Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Sites is a NSF-funded entity established at universities to nurture and support multiple, local teams as they transition their technology concepts into the marketplace.
Engineering students who have been working on projects under the NSF-funded AM-WATCH program, TTU NSF I-Corps Site, and the Additive Manufacturing Studio are regular users of the iMakerSpace facility (housed within the TTU library).
The above mentioned programs are only a handful of the many ways that TTU is focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship for its students. Through partnerships, such as the Epicenter, the Colleges of Business and Engineering, and the Biz Foundry, a nonprofit focused on building entrepreneurs and innovators in the region; TTU is showing how to make STEM an essential and real-world practical part of education.