Entrepreneurship in Engineering Education: A Student Success Story

When Tim Balz arrived as a freshman at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, he had already launched a startup called Freedom Chairs. The not-for-profit organization refurbishes—and improves—electric wheelchairs for those in need.

Freedom Chairs began when Tim noticed a fellow student in his high school struggling in a manual wheelchair. Tim decided he would help, so he traded his moped scooter for a broken electric wheelchair, repaired it, and gave it to the student. With Tim at the helm, Freedom Chairs has expanded and is now helping people worldwide.

Currently a third-year mechanical engineering student, Tim continues to see problems as opportunities. “If someone tells you ‘no,’ that should give you more drive and that should make you work harder to prove them wrong,” he says.

In this video, Tim discusses how entrepreneurial and project-based initiatives at Rose-Hulman prepare him for success outside the classroom. “You have to deliver like a real engineer … the professor is your client,” says Tim.

Project-based learning builds problem-solving skills

Attracting and retaining engineering students remains a challenge. According to a sourcebook from the Association of American Colleges & Universities, less than 40% of U.S. students who enter college planning to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. Introducing hands-on projects to the curriculum—as early as day one—is a great way to engage students. Tim’s enthusiasm is a perfect example. Project-based learning helps students understand the application of theoretical principles and develop the complex problem-solving skills they need to succeed in their careers.

Innovation and entrepreneurship in engineering education

From the White House to the private sector, it’s agreed that innovation and entrepreneurship are must-have skills for a successful STEM workforce. President Obama’s latest Strategy for American Innovation states, “A thriving American innovation ecosystem requires not only visionary and risk-taking entrepreneurs and companies, but also the foundational ‘building blocks’ of innovation in which the Federal government invests.”

Tim Balz is one of many engineering students immersed in the entrepreneurially focused, project-based learning environment at Rose-Hulman. Download this case study to find out how their engineering education program has been transformed—and you can do the same at your institution.

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