To the Top: Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (EGR 535)

To the Top: Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (EGR 535)

"This effort was about encouraging students to be curious, to get out of the building to do customer discovery."

- Micah Lande, Assistant Professor and Tooker Professor at the Polytechnic School 

Case at a glance

Integration goals

Scaling a graduate engineering entrepreneurship, design and innovation project course with online community tools and scaffolder prototyping milestones

Materials affected

Course syllabus, prototyping milestone assignments, student projects

Lessons learned

Students recorded their customer discovery activities on an online tool at  Having students use that tool made it easier for teams to see their progress and us as instructors to provide feedback.  We also asked students to comment on other teams’ progress through the tool during weekly feedback sessions.  We learned that there can never be enough feedback and their peers could learn to provide constructive and useful feedback as well.

In learning entrepreneurship and innovation, there are a lot of activities that are new or uncomfortable to our students.  We learned that a warm-up design and innovation challenge helps students become accustomed to the learning expectations and socialize together in teams.  We have used the innovation challenge to make human-powered “bikes” fashioned out of cardboard as our first activity.


EGR 535: Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a three-credit course taught at the Polytechnic campus. It is open to both degree- and non-degree-seeking graduate students. Drs. Ann McKenna and Micah Lande integrated EM into the course when they taught it during the spring 2017 semester. The course is described as follows:

Provides knowledge of innovation and entrepreneurship practices and experience in the application of engineering systems innovation within an entrepreneurial setting of driving a product or process to successful launch. Includes protection of intellectual property and contractual relations.

The integration effort was funded through Dr. Lande’s KEEN Professorship titled “Scaling a Graduate Engineering Entrepreneurship, Design and Innovation Project Course with Online Community Tools and Scaffolder Prototyping Milestones.” Students in Drs. McKenna and Lande’s course learned about EM through invention and product creation, and practiced lean startup and design thinking methodologies (creating value). Student teams completed 100 customer discovery interviews (curiosity), recording their insights on the LaunchPad Central online platform. Physical prototypes were built based on feedback to communicate the discovered need and opportunity (connections). The prototypes were previewed at the Polytechnic School Innovation Showcase.

Integration details

The tools and structured deliverables helped to deliver this project course with more feedback and opportunities for student reflection on their action than previous class iterations.

The core integration tasks were to add to the entrepreneurship course content more explicitly through introducing entrepreneurial mindsets and deliberate documentation and reporting of those related activities online.  The business model canvas web-based tool called Launchpad Central was introduced through the course and student teams used to record weekly their customer discovery interviews and insights.  We focused on the product-market fit between the identified customer segments and the espoused value propositions, through the 3Cs.

Also, being explicit about the expectations for the number of interviews and engagements with customers, and the increasing level of low- to high-fidelity of prototypes over the semester helped to allow student teams to determine their own learning and performance goals.  The structured prototyping milestones (and funds for student teams to iterate through minimum viable products/prototypes) helped offload the responsibility for feedback from instructor to student teams, fostering their ability to develop evidence-based design decisions.

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

Integrating EM into EGR 535 has potential beyond what we accomplished during this implementation, but we are confident that students successfully went through an innovation process routed in Lean Launchpad methodology and the 3Cs.  The tools deployed in the classroom also made it easier for the instructors to follow the student teams’ process and learnings, as well as gave a focus for informal and formal design reviews in class.

Future plans

We plan to co-teach this course again and will iterate on our initial approach to implementing the integration of EM, but we have not yet determined specific changes.


The availability of ASU’s makerspace on the Polytechnic campus was essential to this integration effort, as was administrative help with coordinating use of that and other building spaces on campus for prototyping. The primary challenge arose from ambiguity in aligning student project interest with actionable, homework-like activities (students were required to interview 15 customers a week).