Covering the full funnel of innovation

uOttawa’s Faculty of Engineering: A hub for entrepreneurial learning
Premiere Wynne at UOttawa
Premiere Wynne at UOttawa (photo provided)

What does it mean to have an entrepreneurial mindset?

It can mean many things. An ability to think outside the box. Challenging the status quo. Taking calculated risks.

According to Dr. Hanan Anis, having an entrepreneurial mindset means all these things. She holds an NSERC Chair in Entrepreneurial Engineering Design at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering.

Maybe it does mean starting your own company. Or it could apply to what you can do to improve your community or help an established organization break the mould and achieve a new level of greatness.

"It develops in the individuals who demonstrate a true passion for building something great from nothing and they are willing to push themselves to the limits to achieve big goals "

Serial entrepreneur Matt Ehrlichman, who launched his first startup from his dorm room at Stanford University, defined it this way last year for Inc. Magazine:

“It develops in the individuals who demonstrate a true passion for building something great from nothing and they are willing to push themselves to the limits to achieve big goals.”

Developing students’ entrepreneurial mindset has been a priority for the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering for a number of years.

Why?

Because engineers build things that create market opportunities and yield substantial societal benefits. A great idea can generate wealth, create jobs and improve quality of life. An engineer may not become an entrepreneur, but the entrepreneurial mindset can be applied to any career path they choose.

uOttawa’s Faculty of Engineering has come a long way since it launched its first business plan competition for students eight years ago to instill an appreciation for entrepreneurship.

“We’ve been emphasizing experiential learning inside and outside the classroom,” said Dr. Anis. “We have a variety of programs and resources available now that break down the traditional silos between the campus lab, the workplace and the local community at large.”

How uOttawa is sprouting the ‘CEEDs’ of entrepreneurship

Under the umbrella of her NSERC-funded research chair, Dr. Anis and her team have levered NSERC funding and other generous donor contributions to dramatically expand the scope of what the Faculty offers. It’s all part of the Faculty’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Engineering Design (CEED).

CEED focuses on improving the level and quality of engineering design, and entrepreneurship education and experience, by fostering and strengthening:

• Engineering design depth, by providing students repeated opportunities throughout their studies to design, build and test products that meet customer needs.

• Customer awareness, by integrating customer discovery and validation into the design engineering process.

• Business acumen, through introduction to essential business concepts and exposure to industry.

• Sales and communication skills.

• Experiential learning opportunities with industry through design and prototyping services and technology commercialization.

The Faculty of Engineering has hired two new faculty members to work with Dr. Anis at CEED:

Dr. David Knox has worked in industry for over 20 years in engineering design and management, in both large and small startup organizations. He has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Algonquin College and Carleton University.

Dr. Patrick Dumond is a recent graduate from the Faculty with significant experience in teaching engineering design and in mentoring student teams in national and international competitions such as Supermilage and Formula SAE.

From the tech bench …

At the Faculty of Engineering’s Richard L’Abbé Makerspaceanyone is welcome to invent, play, design and build. And by anyone, they mean anyone from the community at large, for free. This is where the community and the Faculty can truly come together. The Makerspace is equipped with 3D printers, Arduinos, virtual reality, laser cutters and much more. The Makerspace has welcomed over 3,000 users since its launch in September 2014 and provided over 150 workshops for students and the community alike.

There is also the uOttawa Makerlab. This facility provides students with a structured learning experience using similar technologies available at the Makerspace. Courses offered through the university can book sessions within the Makerlab.

"A placement with a smaller company can often be much more beneficial for a student since they get to wear many different hats throughout their term for a richer workplace experience."

To the shop floor

At the Manufacturing Training Centre (MTC), students get formal instruction on how to fabricate in the machine shop. The facility provides training on a variety of traditional machines, such as lathes, mills and sheet metal-forming equipment. Anyone at the Faculty of Engineering can register for workshops.

With those skills, engineering students can head over to the Brunsfield Group Student Engineering Project and Entrepreneurship Centre. At this dedicated facility, they have access to the tools and equipment they need to design, fabricate and test complex prototypes, including welders, modern CNC mills and plasma cutters. Prototypes have included high-performance hybrid motor systems, highly fuel efficient and off-road vehicles, concrete toboggans, and electrical energy storage and control systems.

New team spaces for students to come together

Students involved in design and entrepreneurial teams now have access to two new facilities.

The Sandbox provides a collaborative space for engineering students involved in small projects, pre-professional competitions and entrepreneurial projects.

The Project Integration and Team Space (PITS) focuses on providing pre-competitive teams involved in large-scale projects with the space and infrastructure required to succeed. The PITS is located across from the Brunsfield Centre so students can access the centre’s various machines.

In the classroom and beyond

All this is supported by a strong curriculum, which integrates courses of study focused on Engineering Design and Entrepreneurship. Students can also take the Engineering Management and Entrepreneurship Option with any undergraduate program. They can then pursue a Master of Engineering Management degree. This program prepares engineering professionals for leadership roles and entrepreneurial responsibilities.

The Faculty also actively pursues work terms and internships with local companies. Funding is available to subsidize placements with SMEs that might otherwise not have the resources to support a student work term.

“A placement with a smaller company can often be much more beneficial for a student since they get to wear many different hats throughout their term for a richer workplace experience,” said Dr. Anis.

But it doesn’t end there. Any uOttawa student can also take part in the Difference Makers program. This program offers a range of workshops to help students make a difference in the world through social entrepreneurship. Dr. Anis runs this program with Stephen Daze, Dom Herrick Entrepreneur in Residence.

Dr. Anis is also taking action to engage more female engineering and computer science students in entrepreneurship.

With Catherine Mavripilis (NSERC Chair in Women in Science and Engineering) and Catherine Elliot (uOttawa’s Telfer School of Management), they have created the Women Startup Network. The mission of this network is to enable women-led startups. The pro-gram guides them to success through powerful leadership training and mentoring.

In addition, there is Startup Weekend Ottawa – an event hosted and sponsored by uOttawa during Global Entrepreneurship Week. During this weekend boot camp, teams start with an idea on Friday and turn that into a business plan that’s pitched to a judging panel on Sunday.

And let’s not forget the programs that started it all – the Faculty’s student entrepreneur-ship competitions. These continue on today, including Prizes in Entrepreneurship and Innovation student competitions, with $60,000 in prize money up for grabs. Not only can students win monetary prizes, they can also benefit from valuable advice from industry professionals who get involved as mentors and judges.

“We have the full funnel of innovation covered,” said Dr. Anis. “From training, to learning, to building and prototyping, we give our students the foundation they need, wherever their passions may take them.”

Get connected

To learn more about uOttawa Faculty of Engineering CEED programs and activities in support of entrepreneurship, please visit https://engineering.uottawa.ca/entrepreneurship/ceed