The Weekender: Devils Invent Design Challenges

The Weekender: Devils Invent Design Challenges

"Devils Invent design challenges are central to ASU’s commitment to introducing and reinforcing entrepreneurial mindset (EM) at multiple touch points. They reinforce integration of EM in our core curriculum and generate involvement in other student engagement programs that have integrated EM, as well as interest in course electives that focus on EM.  These events also create opportunities for students to further develop the solutions they design."

- Layla Reitmeier, Project Manager, KEEN Team

Case at a glance

Integration goals

Integrate EM into a weekend-long design challenge open to all ASU  engineering students

Materials affected

Promotional tools/materials, opening ceremony entrepreneurial mindset training materials, team status reports, assessment rubric used by judges, and event evaluation materials

Lessons learned

A design challenge like Devils Invent provides opportunities for learning how to continuously improve entrepreneurial mindset integration in both curricular and co-curricular settings.


Devils Invent (DI) is a series of weekend-long design events hosted by Academic and Student Affairs within the Fulton Schools of Engineering in which we encourage students to design, build, and implement innovative solutions to challenging problems submitted by community and industry partners, as well as topics of interest brought forth by student organizations. The events are thematically focused, centering around topics pertinent to today’s challenges. DI events start at 5:30 p.m. Friday and end at 3:00 p.m. Sunday. While physically and mentally demanding, DI challenges are safe, low-pressure events for students, because they are not tied to coursework and therefore have no bearing on grades.

Launched on the Tempe campus in fall 2016, these extra-curricular events incorporated the entrepreneurial mindset (EM) from the beginning, as they coincided with the start of the ASU and KEEN partnership. The DI program figured prominently in the rollout of the EM initiative, as its launch marked our transition from focusing exclusively on EM curricular integrations. That is, with the DI events, we started integrating EM into our student engagement programs, four of which were targeted for inclusion in the early phases of the initiative. 

The challenges include completing and presenting a prototype to judges to win prizes. For example, one of the 2016-2017 event top teams received $1000 to further develop their solutions and an automatic entry into eSeed Challenge, part of ASU Venture Devils. From there, the top teams were provided an opportunity to gain entry into the Accelerator cohort and win $5,000 with further advancement and recognition. 

As noted, cultivating students’ entrepreneurial mindset has been central to DI from its inception, and it includes an “EM 101” presentation during the opening ceremony.  With each event we discover better ways to more thoroughly and deeply integrate EM. As a result, the story of DI is one of progressively improving how EM is integrated rather than establishing the integration itself. Despite DI events having evolved, the program is an integral part of how we are measuring the impacts of our overall EM integration efforts among successive cohorts over time. 

We simultaneously use these design challenges to promote courses and events that are driven by EM principles, including Entrepreneurship and Value Creation (FSE 301), Venture Devils, Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP), and KEEN Student Mini-Grants. To offer as much value as possible during each design challenge, we present various workshops. For example, technical workshops provide additional information on prototype development germane to each event; career development workshops address how to describe the DI experience in a job interview or how to utilize the pitch video produced for the final team presentations as part of a professional video. Team members attend the workshops on a rotation basis, so that some members are always advancing the team’s work, while those who attend the workshops can report back on lessons learned. Some student organizations participate as a group, forming their own teams.

Four DI events were held during the 2016-2017 academic year, as well as four in the 2017-2018 academic year. With each event we’ve incrementally increased, deepened, or otherwise refined the integration.  Most notably, now EM is integrated into the challenges themselves (students are given the EM framework upon arrival on opening night), highlighted in promotional materials, featured in the “EM 101” presentation during opening sessions, serves as the organizing principle of team materials used throughout the challenges, and serves as a core element of the rubric judges use to evaluate teams’ prototypes and presentations. 

Integration details

As noted, DI events were built from the ground up with EM integrated, and the integration has evolved. The event structure, however, has remained constant:

  1. Arrival 
  2. Opening ceremony 
  3. Team formation activities
  4. Customer discovery
  5. Distribution of judging rubric (to students)
  6. Iterative design and discovery (includes periodic EM-oriented mentor visits) 
  7. Progressive status reporting
  8. Rapid prototyping
  9. Testing
  10. Presentation development (presentations must include a “marketing pitch”)
  11. Solution presentation
  12. Event evaluation (using both Likert and narrative self-reporting) 
  13. Judging
  14. Closing ceremony (during which winning teams are announced) 

The opening ceremony has also remained quite constant. The dean of Fulton Schools of Engineering speaks during the opening session to introduce the event and put it into the context of ASU’s commitment to innovation, and Dr. Brent Sebold delivers an “EM 101” presentation and connects the principles covered to the design challenge activities ahead. The opening ceremony ends with a review of ground rules and logistics, as well as a program coordinator encouraging participants to think about the key takeaways from the EM 101 presentation when they’re working on their solutions to the challenge.

Where and how EM is integrated into DI has evolved. In addition to the opening EM 101 presentation, the status reports have formally introduced EM integration.

The judging rubric is another area where we have incorporated EM integration.

One area that has not changed is the event evaluation form. While not the formal student mindset tool developed for curricular assessment, the evaluation is based off a faculty EM workshop evaluation. The DI event evaluation includes key EM/3Cs questions so that students’ responses can be factored into the overall program evaluation.

During the two years since DI’s inception, there have been numerous event themes. In some cases, staff worked with student engineering organizations to develop themes; in other cases, themes were developed with industry or community partners. Themes were also developed via direct student feedback. The names and themes of each DI event are provided below, listed by academic year. 


  • Fulton Furnace Fallout: Design technology and devices that could be put to use in a post-apocalyptic scenario
  • The Internet of Things: Push the boundaries of technology through the design, build, and pitch of solutions for connected devices
  • Healthcare: The year is 2067. What have you done to revolutionize healthcare?
  • Human-Centered Design: Put your social engineering skills to use by tackling humanitarian issues


  • Cyber Security: Develop cyber security solutions for community and industry
  • Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality: Connect with stakeholders 
  • Fantasy and Fiction: Inspired by fiction to create cool and fun prototypes
  • Invent for the Planet: In unison with schools across the world, tackle the most challenging issues facing our world
  • Bring your own idea: Create a prototype to bring to market

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

Event outcomes have improved with each event, paralleling the increased number of EM touchpoints integrated throughout each successive design challenge. By the third DI (Healthcare), students started used EM terminology in their presentation videos, and doing so appropriately, seemingly demonstrating that they are grasping EM/3Cs as experienced during the event. The assessments from the fourth DI (Human Centered Design) marked a notable turning point, as students showed a deeper understanding of the importance in knowing one's customer and in creating value for the customer. Details of participant self-reporting from the Devils Invent: Human-Centered Design event follow:

Despite the continuous and varied improvements made to these events, much of the success we have documented with DI’s EM integration could not be achieved without integrations put in place at the start, particularly the first night’s activities, which provide context, knowledge, experience, and focuses on customer discovery.

Ultimately, a satisfying factor is that DI events have become a touchstone, with some students  joining subsequent design challenges, and/or engaging in EM activities such as applying for KEEN Student Mini-Grants and participating in Venture Devils. That the event is generating such awareness and engagement is largely anecdotal, but is being measured, and those results will soon be reported within overall evaluation of the integration effort. Finally, this integration effort has resulted in a bonus outcome: faculty involvement with the events has inspired curricular changes leading to EM integration, thereby enhancing our overall integration initiative.

After the launch year of the DI event, we shared lessons learned with the academic community at the American Society for Engineering Education, Pacific Southwest Conference. Our presentation, Cultivating an Understanding of the Entrepreneurial Mindset through Immersive Makerspace Design Challenges, reviewed how EM integration is woven into each DI challenge. The focus was then narrowed to one DI event, Human Centered Design, to exemplify the specific EM touchpoints - opening ceremony, customer discovery, status reviews, rapid prototyping, mentors, judging rubric, team project video, and event evaluation. Lastly, student comments about the event were shared. The presentation closed with lessons learned from DI for classroom EM integration. 

Future plans

While DI in the past was intensively concentrated on event planning and implementation, going forward we aim to focus on increasing the number of events (our goal is six each academic year); participation rates (our goal is 80); and the level of students participating (from freshman to Ph.D.), as well as maintaining minimum attendance targets and increasing our pipeline of industry financial support.

We are also looking at running parallel events and how students may be able to quantify the impact their designs would have, so that they can possibly pitch outside of ASU, to foundations, for example.  These goals and aspirations point to further systems development. Based on student feedback, we plan to explore making the events credit-bearing.  Students report that the events are inherently valuable, but because of demanding academic coursework, we expect that participation rates would likely increase if participants received actual academic credit for the 2.5 days.

Program-level assessment also figures prominently in our future plans. Our initial mindset assessment instrument has provided a baseline for assessing awareness and attitudes. Going forward, however, we would like to track factors such as who has participated in multiple events and how their outcomes differ from those of students who participate only once, specifically asking questions including, What is your experience of EM? How are you using it? Does it affect your class work? We plan to do a survey with students who participate in more than one event to get their feedback on DI’s influence and effects over time. 


Integrating EM/3Cs into this event was not difficult, as it is a perfect delivery vehicle, providing a hands-on answer to a problem. The challenges lie within the scope, complexity, and duration of the design problem and adequate staff and volunteer support. Accordingly, it helps to have dedicated staff to recruit, coordinate, and onboard event volunteers, mentors, and judges. Recommended roles are design challenge program coordinator and student engagement coordinator, as they can lead event planning and budgeting, and logistics such as space reservations, volunteer commitments, registration, facilities, food, and rejuvenation activities. Other key considerations for these events are space and cost.  In addition to an adequate “makerspace environment,” separate rest and relaxation areas are needed. And securing external funding to supplement institutional and departmental support can ease the financial investment of these events, and, in the process, provide opportunities to work with industry partners. 

Some final considerations follow:

  • Training student engagement program managers and related staff members in EM/3C’s was essential to launching Devils Invent
  • Mentors and volunteers are also given the framework and asked to use it in conversations with the teams
  • We provide the judging rubric electronically, and judging results are submitted and tabulated electronically
  • We put significant resources into marketing DI events, and have integrated EM into those efforts--for example, for the human-centered design challenge, we made a video using EM/3Cs