Rich with Possibilities: Engineering Futures

Rich with Possibilities: Engineering Futures

"Students are encouraged to work in teams to develop ideas for products to serve customers’ needs through their use of curiosity, connections for new contexts, and creating value for society. Their work can can impact customers in significant ways."

- Robin Hammond, Director of the Fulton Schools Career Center and Tirupalavanam Ganesh, Assistant Dean of Engineering Education (Engineering Futures Team Leads)

Case at a glance

Integration goals

Adding an EM segment to an academic success and career preparation program that aims to increase retention, facilitate internships, and improve employment outcomes for first-time, first-generation college students

Materials affected

Workshop materials, industry partnership materials, syllabi, student portfolios, student interviews

Lessons learned

A lot of adjustments are to be expected when integrating EM into a program that includes scheduling, co-curricular transcripting, and curricula from industry partners.


Engineering Futures is a program within a course structure designed to support first-time, first-generation college students within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. The program’s goal is to engage students in this program beginning in their first semester so that they are provided the academic and social support they need to navigate the transition to college. The Engineering Futures program offers a network of peers, peer mentors, industry representatives, alumni, and faculty.  The program’s ultimate goal is to facilitate the development of students’ identity as an engineer. Many of the students in Engineering Futures are ethnic minorities, women, and/or those with socioeconomic need--individuals from groups that have been historically underrepresented in engineering. 

The Engineering Futures program merged with what was the Fulton Undergraduate Engineering & Leadership (FUEL) program to ensure sustainability and maximize potential. FUEL was piloted in the summer of 2015 as a four-week, hands-on, co-curricular program focused on closing the skills gap and accelerating students' career preparation. That is, it focused on building skills employers seek such as innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. The FUEL program was highlighted in a presentation as an innovative engineering education practice integrating EM within co-curricular experiences using the Autodesk platform at the American Society of Engineering Education 2016 Conference.

Within a training-style curriculum, the Engineering Futures program engages students across the following course sequence: FSE 100, 194, and 394. It offers students the following research-based opportunities and strategies to help them become successful as future engineers:

  • Foster an engineering identity 
  • Explore career pathways
  • Build an affinity with peers, and build networks to form friendships
  • Develop a sense of belonging that will support your interests and motivation
  • Cultivate positive advisor relationships with faculty, industry professionals, and near peer mentors
  • Take part in panel discussions, mentorship, advising assistance, industry field trips, seminars led by industry leaders, and design-based learning experiences

The program has three main pillars:

  1. Technical skills development with hands-on learning
  2. Career/leadership development (soft skills, which we call “power skills”)
  3. Self-exploration 

The program recommends that students attend E2 Camp. Junior- and senior-level students serve as peer mentors. Ultimately, this program is about helping students graduate and achieve their post-graduation goals. It reflects a commitment to doing what we can to help students from underrepresented groups get a foothold and differentiate themselves from other job applicants. Put another way, our aim is to get students internship-ready in four semesters, and this point is key, as it is not only part of ASU’s mission but reinforced by industry partners who in a focus group said students must have successfully completed all technical courses and be able to demonstrate the associated skills before they are eligible for internships. It is a skills accelerator.

Additional information is available on the program website.

Integration details

The details of this integration effort are summarized in the timeline that follows:

2015 (pre-EM initiative)
Summer: Piloted the Fulton Undergraduate Engineering Leadership (FUEL) program. The initial pilot of 40 rising-sophomores ran for four-weeks, and included 160 hours of co-curricular programming. National Instruments, Medtronic, and ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation division were the primary corporate and education sponsors. The entrepreneurship module focused on ideation, customer centric design, creating a minimal viable product, and pitching to VC mentors.

Summer: The  Fulton Undergraduate Engineering Leadership (FUEL) program built upon the pilot, and expanded to include two two-week sprints of EM training, simultaneously integrated with industry partner curricula. The EM modules were modified to focus on key 3C’s activities, with deeper dives into customer discovery and iterative prototyping. New industry partners were introduced and EM integrated across the full program. The FUEL program was conducted between May 16 and June 10, and directly impacted two cohorts of approximately 40 total sophomore-level students.

Fall: FUEL merged with Engineering Futures for broader and sustained impact.

Spring: Secured additional mentors from industry, added reference to EM on program website.   Additionally, new “intrapreneurship” aspects of the program were deployed with plans to assess them for viability. For example, Allstate Insurance, an industry partner with formal “intrapreneur” titles, was featured in a luncheon round-table discussion with students.
Summer: Built out new courses and added a formal mentorship program. 
Fall: Piloted Engineering Futures' core course FSE194: Build Your Engineering Future, with approximately 100 students completing the course. EM was integrated into the final project of the course, in which students explored how they could add value to society as engineers. Specifically, students were asked to work in small groups to choose a product or system to re-design for a specific purpose or customer. The final results were shown in a poster that described the purpose, customer needs, design solution, and what future work and testing would be required to further develop this idea.
Spring: Secured additional mentors from industry, expanded the program to include FSE 394, added industry site visits, and further developed the EM module. The addition of FSE 394 will be key to the program’s future, as a 300-level course can become a technical elective.
Summer: Presented an Entrepreneurial Mindset talk/mini-workshop, modified curriculum based on iterations with industry partners. 

In sum, at the time of publication, EM is integrated across the program’s four semesters as follows:

Semester 1: special speakers (EM introduced)
Semester 2: design your life (1-credit course that includes industry tours, EM re-introduced) 
Semester 3: 1-credit course on EM (co-taught with industry partner, focuses on developing an IoT product)
Semester 4: 1-credit course on EM - same as above

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

Although this integration effort in the expanded Engineering Futures program is in its early stages and has not been formally evaluated, we are confident that we have delivered experiences that increase students’ engineering identity through entrepreneurial skills awareness. We designed this integration to build on the students’ self-reporting that indicated that the experiences provided through FUEL (2015 and 2016) were transformative and supported their development as engineers. Additionally, industry partner feedback has been very positive and partnership relationships are flourishing. Finally, our data indicate that students who make it to the fourth semester of Engineering Futures are likely to stay in college.

Future plans

We are exploring co-curricular transcripting to capture factors such as students’ attendance at industry speaker events, invent-a-thons, and hackathons. The data capture, self-reporting, ePortfolios requirements of this improvement do present some challenges. Regardless of whether we are able to implement co-curricular transcripting, our plan for the future is to continue refining the integration of EM through more formal assessment and iterative improvements. Engineering Futures will expand to a 4-year cohort model with corresponding courses, FSE 194, 294, 394 I &II, which will integrate EM continuously.


The primary challenges of this program has been managing the program at scale, successfully ensuring high-touch and high impact within budget constraints. That said, the integration effort has benefited from ASU’s inclusive environment, having ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E + I) staff integrated into FSE, with collaboration and support from industry. For example, the self exploration component was driven by industry input, and curricula content comes from industry partners such as Autodesk, National Instruments, Medtronic, City of Mesa, Avnet, and additional corporate partners.

The program itself has been intentional in reaching a clearly defined target audience of very economically disadvantaged female and underrepresented students. In particular, we established a College Index (CI) score cap and set the cut-off for students just under the cap for Advanced Placement (AP), as AP, International Baccalaureate (IB) completers are likely to be already primed for academic acceleration.

Our students’ economic circumstances require a careful evaluation of both the delivery modality and timeline in order to obtain optimal participation. We have found a co-curricular delivery during the academic year (not summer) is the best timing. This reduces cost barriers to participation. For example, we learned the opportunity cost of foregoing summer employment wages created a limitation and barrier to inclusive participation. Additionally, the costs associated with stacking on a traditional three-credit course was potentially a compounding problem, hence we created 1-credit courses to build and sustain the program.