This semester, Master’s in Technological Entrepreneurship students in the Lean Design and Development course are trying something new.
We partnered with the Autodesk BUILD Space to give venture teams access to their state-of-the-art maker space. BUILD is located in the innovation district, in the same building as MassChallenge and Continuum’s new studio space. It is a research and development workshop and makerspace designed to spur collaboration and innovation using the latest fabrication technology, software, and materials. Our students are being trained on 3D printers, laser cutters, and other advanced equipment to help them realize their projects. BUILD is also providing materials and technical assistance. This is an amazing opportunity for Northeastern. And we could not be more grateful to Autodesk. In addition to BUILD, we have continued to maintain a close relationship with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt). MassArt designers are a part of each team, as are many students from the Engineering Management Masters program in the College of Engineering. Each team has technical skills, business skills, and design skills. The course is taught by myself and Janos Stone, from the College of Arts Media and Design. Together we are taking the journey from opportunity assessment to functioning prototype.
During the first five weeks of the course, we approach the projects from a design thinking perspective, developing concepts from opportunities culled from user insights, research, and ethnography. Using a structured ideation approach developed in the course, leading concepts are selected during week seven.
Students started their journey with an initial opportunity space ideation session at MassArt on January 31st.
The projects are then developed and prototyped with the assistance of the team, their designers, and BUILD over the remaining seven weeks.
A unique aspect of the course is that the students are required to be entrepreneurial, meaning they need to bootstrap, scramble, and find the resources they need for the very high-level of project quality and realism needed to do well in the course. A limited, intentionally constrained budget is given to each team. This constraint actually encourages bootstrapping by giving them some resources and having them want more. Students are permitted to use outside help and ask for in-kind support when and where they can. They can learn the tools required or hire and contract out what they need, just as you would in a small, resource-constrained startup. Examples include prototypes developed using underutilized equipment in a factory in Connecticut, software code contracted in India, free CAD done by roommates, to self-taught development of the micro PC, Raspberry Pi. This is gritty, hands-on global entrepreneurial development in action.
In fact, the Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education (NUCEE) has developed a very defined procedure for handling these courses and associated resources, which are offered for both undergraduate and graduate students. In the future, these courses will be offered in our other campuses, such as the one in Silicon Valley.
This year, we have a focus on sustainability and housing. Already we are seeing some really interesting projects starting to germinate. One of them is 3D rapidly-printed refugee housing, designed for Syria and other areas in need. Final project presentations will be given on April 25th at BUILD to Autodesk and other outside experts. If you want to join us, please let me know!