Golden Opportunities: KEEN Student Mini-Grants

Golden Opportunities: KEEN Student Mini-Grants

iGem team photo: Students total, two rows, three men in back row, three women in front row.

"The KEEN grant has provided our team with the opportunity to display our entrepreneurial mindset to the worldwide community and make connections with others along the way. Our curiosity allowed us to find innovative ways to solve real world problems while creating value by contributing to the bioengineering community.”

- ASU iGEM Team, Fall 2017 KEEN Student Mini-Grant Awardees

Case at a glance

Integration goals

Maximize the integration of EM into KEEN-funded student grants

Materials affected

Proposal narrative template, budget template, application documentation, mini-grant webpages, administrative process documentation, slide decks for training, communication templates

Lessons learned

Giving students the freedom to create their own ideas and projects versus working from prescribed topics truly inspires unique application of the 3C’s


Launched in December of 2016, the KEEN Student Mini-Grants are similar to KEEN Professorships but for individual students or student organizations. These grants make the otherwise impossible possible for most recipients by providing financial support for research, projects, campus events, or conference presentations that integrate the entrepreneurial mindset (EM). Grant funds may be used for expenses such as materials and conference attendance, and research may be either academically focused or industry-based. 

There are two categories of KEEN student grant funding, both available to all Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students--freshmen through doctoral level--although, because funding is limited, undergraduate applicants are given priority:

  • KEEN Student Mini Grants (KSMG): This grant is open to individuals or student organizations to support entrepreneurial-minded campus events, projects, or conference presentations and attendance. 
  • KEEN Student Research Grants (KSRG): The KSRG will sponsor select students proposing research that includes the entrepreneurial values, with specific emphasis on highlighting connections and creating value. Research can be academically focused or industry-based. 

The grant application period is open and ongoing, and learning about EM and its value is built into the application process, as applicants are required to view three short EM videos, review KEEN framework documents, and complete a short quiz (which can be taken multiple times). Additionally, students collaborate with staff to better integrate the 3Cs of EM into their proposals, including being encouraged to make an appointment with one of FSE’s KEEN Entrepreneurial Catalysts (EC) to discuss their application and proposal ideas. (ECs are current students who focus on helping other FSE students navigate ASU’s entrepreneurial resources, refer students to relevant opportunities, and provide coaching if students are beginning to develop their own ideas.) At the end of the grant period, recipients develop a poster and present it during the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) Symposium (templates and guidelines are provided to students), although applicants do not have to be current participants in FURI to qualify.

Typical KSMG awards range from $400 – $1,550 for individuals, depending on the proposal, location of the event/conference, and size of the event. The average amount awarded to-date is $1,525, and undergraduate applicants are given priority, as funding is limited. Student organization or group award amounts can be in a higher range. What gets funded varies widely, as the following examples show:

  • Robotics for Painting Sport Fields
  • AZLoop – Arizona’s Competition Hyperloop Team
  • The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Synthetic Biology Competition
  • AirDevils: Aerospace Design Workshop
  • Fulton Student Council: NAESC Engineering Leadership Summit
  • Epilepsy Monitoring Headband

The KEEN Student Mini-Grant website includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Integration details

This integration effort began with the project manager providing EM training to the program coordinator, who would go on to train other FSE staff and the ECs. The project manager and program coordinator developed the program’s goals, budget, and application process, as well as award criteria. They also established administrative and oversight processes, planned the program’s implementation, and developed all materials. 

Implementation started with the project manager and program coordinator conferring with FSE’s Academic Student Affairs (ASA) staff to learn about their existing student funding opportunities as well as to explore how to most effectively collaborate on integrating the new funding opportunity into ASA messaging. Key to the collaboration was determining the best way to keep ASA staff informed of the status of individual grants and how to integrate showcasing KSMG recipients’ work into existing student showcase events. This initial work with ASA included providing several ASA staff training on EM, so that they too understood the program goals and could address student questions.

The team developed administrative and grant-making materials, foremost among them the actual grant application, including its narrative proposal and budget templates, and a webpage, which they linked to Wufoo, a platform that hosts the application and submission process. They defined the application review process, currated the KEEN videos and framework, and created the EM quiz applicants must pass to be eligible. 

To market the KEEN student grants among students and student organizations the first year, the grant team developed electronic and print marketing materials, gave presentations to student groups, informed KEEN Professors and advisors about the opportunity, attended numerous events to meet prospective applicants, and presented to classes at faculty members’ request. In later semesters, the team implemented several additional advertising tactics, including tabling at Academic Advising buildings, launching the student grant webpage, enlisting ECs to present to student organizations, promoting the opportunity during faculty workshops, and connecting with student teams at Devils Invent events. 

Applicants use a narrative proposal template to describe in one page how their project, event, or conference integrates EM and why it is beneficial. More specifically, they provide an overview that clearly defines their objective and explains how the 3Cs of EM are integrated. They also describe how the application of EM in the project, event, or conference will advance EM at ASU and who will benefit. Applicants use a budget template to provide an accounting of anticipated expenses. The application process continues as follows:

  1. The project manager and program coordinator review each application package (some students ask for advice before even submitting their applications).
  2. If a proposal doesn’t meet funding standards, the program coordinator coaches students to create stronger applications, resulting in a proposal development process that is a learning experience for the applicants, as with each round of revision they gain a better understanding of EM and its role in their proposals. 
  3. After revision of proposals is complete, proposals undergo review by top-tier program leadership.
  4. The program coordinator notifies students or student organization leaders of their applications’ award/non-award status. 
  5. The program coordinator administers the award, then provides guidance and support to awardees throughout the grant period. 

The application timeframe is one to three weeks, depending the amount of coaching individual applicants need.

NOTE: Supporting resources for this case study can be found within its companion KEEN card (link below), which is also where the community can discuss the case and its broader topic.

Integration outcomes

Developing the application and process to ensure students’ success took longer than we had hoped, but we now have a well-established program that is recognized and consistently generates inquiries. 

By the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, 13 students and two student organizations had applied.  Five mini-grants and five research grants were awarded in spring 2017. One of the first spring semester awardees, conducting research on alternatives to biomedical implants, shared his experience of integrating EM and the 3Cs in his work, and his experience has become representative of the majority of grant recipients: “The KEEN Student Mini-Grant has impacted me immensely by changing the way I approach engineering problems by using the Entrepreneurial Mindset to find a need in society and solutions that create value for others. I have learned to use my natural curiosity to make key connections to integrate discoveries for better, more innovative ideas.” 

In spring 2017, these grants supported 15 ASU Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) Symposium participants, with all of the students presenting their research in a KEEN-designated area of the symposium.  

In semesters following the program’s initial launch (in spring 2017), over 30 applications were received for fall 2017 and spring 2018. In response, 13 KEEN Student Mini-grants were awarded, 11 of which went to student organizations or groups), and seven KEEN Student Research Grants were awarded. 

It has been exciting to see the KEEN student project mini-grants and research grants implemented at ASU, in particular how these funding opportunities have sparked students’ imagination about how to integrate EM into their interests outside of classwork. 

Future plans

After having achieved our early 2018 goal of launching our new website for KEEN student funding opportunities, we are primarily focused on increasing the number of applicants and grants awarded. In particular, we would like to increase the number of research grants as well as student-led events. To help us achieve this goal, we are planning enhanced marketing and vehicles for making more direct connections with FSE student organizations. 

We also intend to continuously improve and keep up-to-date all aspects of the program, from staff, faculty, and EC training to the EM curriculum based on feedback and developments in other parts of ASU’s EM ecosystem, and the wider EM ecosystem. Finally, we plan on integrating this program into our larger student EM assessment efforts.


This EM integration effort first required leadership to envision the program, staff to create the process, and then tremendous collaboration across FSE groups. We have been fortunate to have great support from ASA staff, and as has been true throughout ASU’s overall EM integration effort, the culture of entrepreneurship and the robust EM ecosystem have benefited this effort.

On a more practical, day-to-day level, it was essential that we established sound processes for administration of the award such as purchasing, budget monitoring, and how recipients present their findings. This program requires the dedicated effort of a staff to work with students through all phases of the grant, from pre-application to post-award.
Two more considerations should be noted: First, Wufoo, the vendor we use for the application process, is a paid platform, so it appears as a line item in our overall program budget. Second, to ensure that we can freely photograph and record video of recipients during showcases and other events, we have all recipients sign a Photo/Filming Subject Release as part of the application process.