Preparing Students for Entrepreneurship
Increasingly, many engineering students plan to pursue entrepreneurial careers after graduation. The Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering recognizes the need to prepare students for this exciting and rewarding career path.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires a broad array of skills. Some of the key skills students may need as an entrepreneur are: understanding market need, innovation, financing, product development, securing and defending intellectual property, management, sales, marketing, business networking, and risk management.
While no one program can prepare students for all of the business situations students may face during the course of their entrepreneurial career, the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering strives to provide a springboard for students who want to become successful entrepreneurs.
Students can gain essential experience from the following classes or activities in the department:
Innovation, Technology Development, Prototyping:
Students can take a wide variety of course work in signals and systems (with applications in industry, medicine, defense, telecommunications, automobiles, and instrumentation), applied physics (with applications in semiconductors, nano-technology, microwave enginering, radio engineering, and biomedicine), and systems science and mathematics (with applications in optimization, control, automation, and operations research). Students may undertake undergraduate research (UGR, ESE 497) projects, either individually or as a team, and propose their own ideas for independent study (ESE 400) and senior design projects (ESE 498 and ESE 499). These projects help students to develop a deeper understanding of specific technologies, to pursue the development of new ideas, and to prototype systems. Students may also take advantage of internships and co-op opportunities with startup and established companies. Students can acquire funding to create their own startup through various grant opportunities including the Arch Grants Global Startup Competition, as well as the SEAS Discovery Competition, which encourages students to find innovative solutions to real-world problems.
Students have ample opportunities to participate in or initiate team projects. The department supports vibrant student organizations such as IEEE, SIAM, and EWB. Students assume leadership roles and initiate different projects. Examples of such projects include the modular dance floor, the little brother helicopter, the Tesla coil, and the plasma speaker. Through these projects, students learn to work with others, to manage projects, and in some cases to develop products to market.
The department sponsors many events during which students meet with successful entrepreneurs and learn their experiences first hand. The department boasts numerous alumni who have founded successful businesses here in the United States and around the world. Students meet with these successful alumni and develop personal relationships with them. Additionally, within the Washington University community, there are many opportunities to connect with other students who are interested in joining an entrepreneurial venture. The Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, housed in Simon Hall, is a center for learning that supports campus-wide entrepreneurial activities among all majors and serves as a liaison between entrepreneurs of all disciplines. Additionally, it provides substantial connections to outside capital and mentoring resources, which can benefit aspiring student entrepreneurs. Student chapters of professional organizations such as IEEE, SIAM, and EWB, are also excellent avenues for networking. The department encourages students to participate in the study abroad programs as additional opportunities for networking in overseas countries. One such opportunity is a course called "Venture Consulting in Israel", which allows students to gain experience in venture capitalism by working with startups in Israel.
Management, Marketing, Sales:
Students can take classes such as Entrepreneurship (MGT 421), Introduction to Marketing (MKT 370), Principles of Financial Accounting (B50 2610), Individual in a Managerial Environment (B53 100), Business Planning for New Enterprises: The Hatchery (B53 424), and Community Development & Environmental Preservation through Entrepreneurial Collaboration (B63 550M). Students may also pursue double majors in the entrepreneurship program of the John M. Olin School of Business. Some of the projects students initiated have proven successful in the marketplace.
Risk and Failure Management:
Many of the courses offered by the department require students to perform open-ended design tasks. Students learn to deal with technical and logistical challenges during the design processes, which include analyzing design tradeoffs and diagnosing and troubleshooting problems. Students may also take courses such as Legal Environment of Business (B53 421) to learn about the legal issues that entrepreneurs may face.
Chair, ESE Department