Six picked for innovation, entrepreneurship project

Six picked for innovation, entrepreneurship project

Consumers are asking questions about the food-production system they've never asked before, and agriculture needs to do a better job of answering those questions, panelists at a UNL lecture on Nov. 6 agreed.

UNL has been chosen one of 25 institutions to participate in a two-year federal program to boost innovation and entrepreneurship in undergraduate engineering education.

A UNL team of faculty and administrators led by David Keck, director of the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, attended its first meeting for the Pathways to Innovation Program, held at Stanford University Jan. 14-15. The meeting begins a two-year process to design and implement a unique plan for “a new era of engineering education that prepares students to tackle big problems and thrive in this ever-changing economy.”

The program is run by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation, or Epicenter. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Epicenter’s mission is to empower undergraduate engineering students to bring their ideas to life for the benefit of the economy and society. Epicenter is directed by Stanford and VentureWell, formerly the National Collegiate Inventors and Inventors Alliance.

UNL is part of the second cohort of universities chosen to participate in the Pathways program. An inaugural group of 12 institutions was launched in January 2014.

“There are 500,000 students in the U.S. majoring in engineering and computer science fields,” said Tom Byers, a Stanford professor and director and co-principal investigator of Epicenter. “These students are expected to enter industry with technical knowledge as well as a diverse set of skills and attitudes that help them to innovate, collaborate and create value. As educators, we need to better prepare this generation of students for the workforce and position them for success in their careers.”

In addition to the Pathways program for faculty and administrators, Epicenter offers a fellowship program for undergraduate engineering students and a research program.

In addition to Keck, members of UNL’s team are Theresa Welbourne, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship; Stephen Reichenbach, computer science and engineering; Shane Farritor, mechanical and materials engineering; David Jones, biological systems engineering and associate dean of the College of Engineering; and Ian Cottingham, assistant professor of practice at the Raikes School.

Other institutions selected for the 2015 program are Case Western Reserve University; Clemson University; Colorado School of Mines; Florida Institute of Technology; Hampton University; Illinois Institute of Technology; James Madison University; Loyola University Maryland; Missouri University of Science & Technology; New York Institute of Technology; North Carolina A&T; Oregon State University; Southern Methodist University; Temple University; Universidad del Turabo; University of Alabama-Birmingham; University of Delaware; University of Hawaii at Manoa; University of North Dakota; University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez; University of Texas at Arlington; University of Texas-El Paso; Washington State University; and Wichita State University.