Pinpoint: A message from the dean
Getting down to business with future engineers
One of the more troubling aspects of the global financial crisis is the persistent rise in U.S. unemployment. The reported rate in the United States climbed above 10 percent in November 2009, and many experts believe it will further increase in the months ahead.
This trend calls into sharp focus the need for a renewed commitment to American entrepreneurship, which will be required to lead the way in job creation in the years ahead. Fortunately, history shows that past economic trouble has not dampened the potential of this nation’s entrepreneurship and innovation. According to the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation, a leading think tank on entrepreneurship, more than half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during either a recession or a bear market.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of a select group of U.S. “Kauffman campuses,” has been working to produce a culture of entrepreneurship across the spectrum of academic programs at UW-Madison. Indications are that our students are responding with great enthusiasm. I am happy to report that the UW-Madison College of Engineering is leading the way on a number of fronts.
This fall, students interested in becoming entrepreneurs learned from the rich experiences of two innovators. Chad Sorenson, a winner of the Schoofs Prize for Creativity, Burrill Business Plan competition, Tong Prototype Prize and founder of two successful firms, taught a new Innovation Days seminar series to students interested in competing in the 15-year-old Innovation Days competitions. And Matthew Ogle, a biomedical engineer and entrepreneur who holds more than 30 patents, taught an established course called Business and Entrepreneurship for Engineers with a strong focus on his own background in launching technology-based businesses.
Sorenson turned his student invention of a monitoring system for fertilizer applications into the million-dollar company Fluent Systems. He currently leads the company Sologear Inc., which produces a nationally distributed charcoal-grilling alternative called FlameDisk. Sorenson brought to the seminar participants each week both a passion for entrepreneurship and an empowering outlook: Creativity is not just an innate gift, he argues, but rather a talent that can be learned and mastered with the right tools.
Ogle also brought the power of teaching by example to his course, which had more than 40 enrolled students this fall. He spent seven years as a senior engineer for St. Jude Medical in St. Paul, Minnesota, before commercializing some of his biomedical discoveries and co-founding Lumen Biomedical Inc. Ogle sold his interests in Lumen to his business partner after nurturing the company to a global enterprise in the production of medical tools for treating heart disease.
Ogle’s goal is to help students through the process of developing world-class ideas by showcasing real examples, including a detailed breakdown and examination of his business plan for Lumen. He ultimately asks students to write their own business plan as a final class product. Ogle is confident that viable commercial ideas will emerge from each class.
Ogle and Sorenson serve as role models for current students on how to successfully launch a company. We are focused on instilling in more of our graduates the desire and confidence to tackle entrepreneurship, and these types of courses will provide them with the knowledge to succeed.
These are just a few examples of our expanding commitment to innovation in the college. Through our “Engineering Beyond Boundaries ” educational transformation, we are actively pursuing more alliances with other schools and colleges to broaden our undergraduates’ experiences. We are currently pursuing business and ethics courses for engineers, cross-listed with the Wisconsin School of Business, as well as a certificate program that will allow students to tailor their degrees to support entrepreneurship.
Now more than ever, the United States needs to reaffirm its leadership in innovation. One of the best steps for that successful outcome is the continued integration of engineering technical expertise with sound business principles and education.
Engineering Beyond Boundaries
The College of Engineering 2010 and Beyond initiative, now known as Engineering Beyond Boundaries, or EB2, began in 2005. This long-term effort aims to transform undergraduate education to better prepare our graduates to work in culturally diverse, cross-disciplinary teams to address the major issues facing the nation and the planet. Engineers will play a role in solving every major challenge facing society. Yet there is no single complex problem that will be solved exclusively by engineers. To make a difference, engineers will need to contribute to teams that are culturally and intellectually diverse. Through EB2, we hope to make that diversity come to life for our students.
Each year, the college has funded projects that support this initiative. The 2009 projects are:
Modules for data acquisition and experimental measurements development and integration — Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Tim Shedd, Chemical and Biological Engineering Associate Professor Thatcher Root, and Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Chin H. Wu
Removing redundancy in control theory-based courses in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering using eCOW2 and on-line streaming video — Mechanical Engineering Professor Neil Duffie and Assistant Professor Darryl Thelen, and Engineering Physics Professor Greg Moses
Engineering communication across the curriculum: A plan to develop online modules and a wiki to supplement communication education in COE — Technical Communications Director Laura Grossenbacher, and Engineering Professional Development Assistant Faculty Associate Christine Nicometo, Associate Faculty Associate Traci Nathans-Kelly and Lecturer Christina Matta
Exploring interdisciplinary fluid mechanics — Mechanical Engineering Professor Jay Martin and Professor Emeritus John Mitchell, Chemical and Biological Engineering Professors Daniel Klingenberg and John Yin, and Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Chin H. Wu
A proposal to develop a coordinated teaching structure between the Departments of Engineering Physics and Mechanical Engineering to promote enhanced learning of mechanics of materials (EMA 303 and ME 306) — Engineering Physics Professors Wendy Crone, James Blanchard and Michael Plesha and Mechanical Engineering Professor Roxann Engelstad and Assistant Professor Kevin Turner