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Industry-centric program offers students advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurial skills

From elementary school through college, today’s students acquire and possess more knowledge than ever before. Engineering education is no exception, but what about the application of engineering knowledge as it’s acquired? Many call this experiential, or hands-on, learning.

The Ohio State University College of Engineering is among the best in the country at designing and delivering hands-on education for its students, but there is always room for improvement. Especially when that improvement is suggested by industry partners.

On August 28, Ohio State’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) launched the Experiential Entrepreneurship Education (E3) Program to respond to emerging advanced manufacturing talent demands and to a growing interest in applied innovation among students.

Funded with $3.5 million from the Bernice L. Claugus Engineering Innovation Fund, the E3 Program is the nation’s first to combine product design, commercialization, manufacturing and business model learning with onsite prototyping capabilities and real-time, industry-sponsored R&D projects.

Aerospace engineering major Emmanuel Adu speaks to launch ceremony guests about his R&D project. “This is the future of technology-based, entrepreneurship education,” said CDME Executive Director John Bair, “where faculty, students and industry professionals will study and practice the commercialization of innovative products and services.”

He said that since 2015, they have integrated students at the center, working on industry-sponsored or faculty-inspired commercialization projects. Leveraging a 100,000-square-feet multi-use facility on west campus and the involvement of dozens of engineering faculty members, CDME has attracted federal and state grants to assist manufacturers in the region.

“When we talk to industry partners, they always emphasize access to students and their desire for graduates with industry-ready experience,” Bair added. In many U.S. manufacturing firms, more than 50 percent of the technical workforce is older than 50. By 2021, experts estimate that there will be a shortage of at least 5 million college-trained workers. This is especially problematic for manufacturing industries, where a dwindling skilled labor force is already a concern.

The comprehensive E3 Program will expand and accelerate previous efforts to involve and prepare students, including renovation of space at CDME’s Kinnear Rd. facility. More than 30 students already employed part-time by CDME have become E3’s first cohort of participants. Bair thinks that number could swell to 150 by next year, although not all will be employees. While approximately 75 percent of current participants are engineering majors, all Ohio State students are eligible to participate.

Bair and newly hired E3 Program Director Michael Camp are excited about what this means for students. Not only will they learn skills and tools that increase their marketability among prospective employers, they also will be inspired and equipped to be entrepreneurs.

Camp, formerly executive director of Ohio State’s Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Institute, has extensive experience in building industry-centric, multidisciplinary programs like this.

“From the latest equipment and technology to business experts and engineering faculty onsite, we will provide them everything they need to translate imagination to invention,” he said.

CDME's Nate Ames guides launch event guests on a tour of spaces where E3 students learn and innovate.Camp added that the program is designed to be self-sustainable after four years.

“We expect sufficient revenue from an increased number of industry-sponsored R&D projects, federal and state grants, and philanthropic gifts from individuals and companies that believe in the impact we’re making,” he said.

The launch of the program has already attracted interest and investment from industry partners. FANUC, a global leader in manufacturing automation and robotics, will donate $350,000 in advanced manufacturing training, while National Instruments has donated $133,000 in LabVIEW systems engineering software licenses and training for E3 students. As a result, CDME will become a partner training site for FANUC and National Instruments clients in the region.

Bair and Camp are confident additional original equipment manufacturers will see the benefit of in-kind donations to support the unique program.

“In a way,” Bair said, “this is an engineering and business co-op program, except that the companies will bring their project, equipment and staff to the students.”


- The original article was published by the College of Engineering