Priorities:Tennessee Technological University- Student Priorities

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As a UIF leadership circle for Tennessee Technological University, we hope to increase and expand innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets across campus. In 5 to 10 years we want to come back to see engineers working with artists, chemists creating alongside social scientists, and business professionals collaborating with human ecologists. We hope to see greater and stronger student-faculty relationships, students pursuing their innovative ideas from day 1 of freshman year, and a greater use of campus and regional resources to help students and faculty bring their ambitions to life. Above all, we hope to see innovative thinking become the standard, not the exception.



With the addition of the iCube and iMakerspace to Tennessee Technological University's campus, a key resource for innovation and entrepreneurship is available for all students to utilize. The iCube hosts a virtual reality lab, brainstorming area and classroom, and an iMakerspace loaded with machines like 3-D printers and lab space. Currently, the space is primarily used by engineering students, as well as a small proportion of business students. To introduce students of all majors to entrepreneurship and innovation both on campus and within this new resource, specialized pop-ups should be held which represent the interests of various underrepresented majors in the iCube. For example, a pop-up class which showed wildlife and fisheries students how to 3-D print fish hooks would bring students of other majors into the space and increase exposure to interdisciplinary work with engineering students. Specialized pop-up classes will be open to all students, increasing the likelihood of involving more majors in the iCube and iMakerspace. 

In order to identify these unique topics of interest, various surveys will be sent out to students' emails requesting ideas and ranking those ideas based on interest. The success of this strategic priority requires the formation of a strong partnership between the faculty/staff of the iCube & iMakerspace and students. In the beginning stages, specialized pop-ups can be hosted by faculty members across campus with the eventual introduction of student-facilitated pop-ups. 

Materials for the pop-ups will form the bulk of required funding for this strategic priority. Meetings with the stakeholders within each college will be held to identify funding sources for material costs. A pop-up funding grant would be a wonderful future addition to this initiative.

Everyone has a need for innovation in their degree, and these specialized pop-ups are a way to introduce more students to invaluable resources on campus.




Research completed regarding the I&E ecosystem at Tennessee Technological University uncovered a large base of I&E-capable student organizations (40+) with an overwhelming lack of courses either based on or integrating I&E principles into the curriculum (~9 + Senior capstone projects). Courses containing these concepts are clustered within the engineering and business disciplines, with few outliers among other majors such as agriculture and nursing.

One such course, involving students from nursing and chemical engineering (open to biomolecular concentration as well as general chemical engineering students), is called Clinical Immersion at Disciplinary Interfaces and was piloted during the Fall 2015 Semester. This course teaches students to apply field experience/observation and personal interviews to a process very similar to the design thinking process called the Legacy Cycle. Students then use this creative process to generate innovative solutions to problems noted during clinical experiences in the hospital and/or identified by health care workers (mostly staff nurses). One solution presented at the end of the course included plans and theoretical proof of concept for a non-lead radiation-shielding sterile drape which would be reusable, sterilizable, light-weight, and flexible.


Though Clinical Immersion at Disciplinary Interfaces is an interdisciplinary course focused on a process similar to design thinking, there are a few improvements which would make the experience more effective:

  1. Increase time period: One semester proved too short for any of the four Fall 2015 groups to fully develop a prototype or MVP (minimum viable product).
  2. Increase interdisciplinary aspect: The course only includes students from nursing and chemical engineering disciplines, leaving large knowledge deficits when developing business plans and/or other aspects of prototype development which cannot be solely applied to chemical engineering and/or nursing.
  3. Greater introduction to available resources: While a brief introduction to the resources available for prototyping on campus was provided (specifically, the iMakerspace within the iCube), no in-depth instruction occurred on the use of these resources due to time constraints for the students of Fall 2015.


In order to remedy the areas for improvement outlined above, a long-term 3 year program has been proposed for participation of students from every major offered through Tech (not all will be represented, but all will be eligible). This program will offer extensive exposure to I&E concepts and interdisciplinary collaboration while promoting the use of available resources for student innovative and entrepreneurial ventures. Divided into yearly cohorts, the program will give students the opportunity to form long-term interdisciplinary relationships for collaboration in solution development to problems found in the surrounding area and/or on mission trips to more distant locations.

  1. First year cohorts will focus on learning the design thinking process, the business model canvas, and other vital resources which facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship from concept generation to production & sales. The program will integrate into the curriculum critical & creative thinking exercises challenging students to apply these concepts to the world around them.
  2. Second year cohorts will be assigned projects for solution development and execution. Students will focus on design thinking solutions to the assigned problem, developing prototypes/minimum viable products (MVPs) from data collected through research, and working to bring the solution to production using resources available on campus and in the regional I&E ecosystem.
  3. Third year cohorts will self-identify problems and develop design solutions with the end goal of achieving student licensure of the product, venture start-up status, and/or commercialization of the product by an outside entity. As the capstone of the program, this project will challenge students to work together effectively while pooling knowledge not only from the previous two years in the program, but also knowledge gained within each student's respective discipline.


  1. iCube partnership (Spring 2016): In order to establish increased program credibility, developing a close partnership with the directors and administrators of the iCube is essential to gaining the support of individual college deans and department heads. Partnership with the iCube also provides the program with a home-base and increased access to resources required for prototyping and design development.
  2. Teaser course/workshop (Spring 2016): Further research of student interest and attitudes toward I&E and a program of this type is required before development can truly begin. Holding a teaser design thinking workshop for students within UNIV 1010 Freshman Connections courses will give students a taste of the concepts to be taught within the program and provide an opportunity for gauging student interest in I&E and interdisciplinary collaboration.
  3. Gain support of colleges and departments (Spring & Summer 2016): Support from the individual colleges and departments on campus would aid in pushing the program through various curriculum committees and also help to promote the program and I&E to faculty and students across campus.
  4. Spark interest early: Targeting students during freshman year is a tactic universities deploy across the country to increase student discovery of I&E and promote its continued pursuit. If we can teach students to look for the I&E opportunities around them in their UNIV 1010 Freshman Connections course (see Strategic Priority #3) the proposed program will provide a guided opportunity to pursue these ideas long-term.



Through our investigation of the I&E ecosystem on our campus, a dichotomy began to emerge in which I saw a divergence between those who viewed the design thinking process as valuable in itself and those who viewed it as a means to developing technology. Tennessee Tech has done an admirable job  building out the infrastructure which could support creating technology or a company, but has room to grow in terms of developing an I&E culture.

Design thinking as a methodology has value when applied to a person’s life, college experience, or career. I&E can provide value to every Tech student regardless of what they do after graduation. My goal is to blend I&E into the freshman curriculum through the University Connections class. I want every freshman to begin his/her time at Tech with an I&E boot camp.

I will run a pilot “Design Thinking College” course. The class will meet in the maker space and feature key I&E faculty and leadership as guest speakers and lecturers. The class will involve a hands on I&E project from day one and will conclude with an idea pitch competition. This class aims to introduce students to the I&E framework so early in their college careers it becomes their default, and they can engage in the community and culture we are trying to build at Tennessee Tech. 


Ashlin Wildun

Jacqueline Schulz

Nicholas Russell

Enis Cirak

Jonathan Abbotoy

Abigail Collins

Tennessee Technological University

Tennessee Tech Website

The Biz Foundry

Tennessee Tech iCube

2016 Spring Landscape Canvas