Entrepreneurship and STEAM a logical connection: Focus on engineering

Youth entrepreneurship programs integrate the educational concept of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). Let’s focus on the connection between entrepreneurship and engineering.

Gears in a lightbulb

Did you know there is a strong connection between entrepreneurial thinking and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics)? Both concepts result in individuals who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. Every aspect of STEAM has a connection with entrepreneurship. This article focuses on the connection between entrepreneurship and engineering.

Identifying problems and finding solutions to those problems are one of the avenues entrepreneurs take in their quest for product and service development. Logically uncovering solutions to problems is the heart of engineering. The marriage of these two fields is what brings about innovation. Both fields can complement and fortify each other.

Many budding engineers are often found tinkering with or taking thing apart to see how they work. These actions are often prompted by curiosity and creativity. These entrepreneurial characteristics, in addition to a desire to find solutions to problems, often lead to the development of innovations. According to Business Dictionary, innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.

In the research paper “Challenges in University Technology Transfer and the Promising Role of Entrepreneurship Education,” Nelson and Byers indicate entrepreneurship education programs that focus on product development provide solid engineering experience in product design and development, prototyping, technology trends and market analysis. Youth involved in these types of programs have the opportunity to take creative ideas through the engineering and design processes. It also gives them an opportunity to solve real-world problems and enhance the quality of life. Through learning how to identify opportunities and challenges that require an engineering mind set, their innovative thinking may lead to the next great invention.

Many higher institutes have recognized the vital connection between entrepreneurship and engineering. In the National Academy of Engineering journal article, “Entreprenuership: Its Role in Engineering,” the authors address the fact that a solid foundation in entrepreneurship education provides solid experiences for engineers needed to be successful in the work force and the business world.

In their report, “Sustaining the Change,” the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) recognizes the strong influence entrepreneurship education can have on engineering students. They state, “Entrepreneurship education teaches engineering students in all disciplines the knowledge, tools, and attitudes that are required to identify opportunities and bring them to life. Students who take part in entrepreneurship programs as undergraduates gain insights not available from traditional engineering education, such as understanding and designing for end users (‘empathy’), working in and managing interdisciplinary teams, communicating effectively, thinking critically, understanding business basics, and solving open-ended problems.”

Engineering cuts across numerous disciplines. Connecting to engineering opens an array of possible business ideas for the young entrepreneur. There are numerous business ideas that can evolve from this connection. Some of these may include small machine repair shops, software development, auto repair, welding, product assembly service, and waste disposal services.

Michigan State University Extension helps young people learn how to think outside the box and explore entrereneurship as a career option. MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact 4-HCareerPrep@msu.edu.

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