Engineering Faculty Wins National Prize for Educational Innovation

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The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced today that it is awarding the 2014 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education to four faculty members from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering.

John Collier ’72, Thayer ’77, Robert Graves, Joseph Helble, and Charles Hutchinson will receive the award for the design and implementation of Dartmouth’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, an educational paradigm that integrates entrepreneurship into all levels of the engineering curriculum—from the undergraduate through the doctoral level—to prepare students for technology leadership. The prize will be conferred May 2 at a ceremony in Hanover.

Professor John Collier with students

Professor John Collier with students in his course “Engineering Sciences 21.” He is one of four Thayer professors awarded the 2014 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education. (Photo by Douglas Fraser)

“The Thayer School of Engineering has created something unique,” says Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon ’77. “The nature of the curriculum allows students to develop not only an unparalleled engineering competency, but the critical thinking, entrepreneurial, and leadership skills needed to apply that education broadly—increasing their impact in the world and their ability to innovate and create solutions to society’s most pressing challenges. We couldn’t be more pleased that these efforts have been recognized in such a significant way.”

The Award

The NAE established the Gordon Prize in 2001 to “recognize new modalities and experiments in education that develop effective engineering leaders.” Half of the $500,000 prize is granted to the recipients and half to the institution “to support the continued development, refinement, and dissemination of the recognized innovation.” Thayer’s plans for using the prize funding include developing a summer workshop to teach college administrators, faculty members, and advanced PhD students how to educate students in entrepreneurial thinking and leadership through project-based experiential study.

“It is a privilege to receive this award on behalf of the faculty of the Thayer School of Engineering,” says Dean Joseph J. Helble. “Dartmouth has a long history of educational leadership, and to be recognized nationally for our innovations in engineering education is truly an honor for our school.”

The NAE is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. Its mission is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshaling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.

“The National Academy’s prize validates Thayer School’s efforts to wholeheartedly encourage students in the entrepreneurship that underlies successful engineering in America. I hope that engineering programs across the country will be inspired to replicate our approach to engineering entrepreneurship,“ says Elsa Garmire, a National Academy of Engineering member and the Sydney E. Junkins 1887 Professor at Dartmouth who nominated her colleagues for the Gordon Prize.

The Recipients

John Collier

John Collier. (Courtesy Thayer School of Engineering)

John Collier transformed an introductory engineering course, “Engineering Sciences 21,” into one of the most important and consequential undergraduate engineering experiences at Dartmouth. In the course, often described as “life-changing” by engineering majors and non-majors alike, student teams develop a project idea, brainstorm a technology or product solution, research the market, build and test a prototype, develop a business plan, and present their idea to a review board of potential funders. Collier also mentors majors completing “Engineering Design Methodology,” the capstone bachelor of engineering design sequence, in which students undertake real-life projects for industry sponsors. Collier is the Myron Tribus Professor of Engineering Innovation.

Charles Hutchinson

Charles Hutchinson. (Courtesy Thayer School of Engineering)

Charles Hutchinson launched Dartmouth’s interdisciplinary Master of Engineering Management (M.E.M.) program in 1989. Combining graduate-level engineering study with business management and entrepreneurship courses taught by faculty from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, the M.E.M. program prepares technology leaders to advance rapidly in industry management and to create startups. Hutchinson is a Thayer dean emeritus and the John H. Krehbiel Sr. Professor for Emerging Technologies, Emeritus.

Robert J. Graves

Robert J. Graves. (Courtesy Thayer School of Engineering)

Robert Graves assumed leadership of the M.E.M. program in 2003. He enhanced the curriculum, created a technology assessment course, and expanded leadership training and experiential learning opportunities. He established the Corporate Collaboration Council, a group of industry leaders who offer advice on industry trends, mentor students, and provide them with internships. He also initiated the M.E.M. Programs Consortium (MEMPC), a group of leading professional graduate engineering management programs that share best practices and promote knowledge of the M.E.M. degree. Graves is the John H. Krehbiel Sr. Professor for Emerging Technologies.

Joseph Helble

Joseph Helble. (Courtesy Thayer School of Engineering)

Joseph Helble launched Dartmouth’s PhD Innovation Program in 2008 as the nation’s first doctoral-level program in engineering innovation and entrepreneurship. Innovation Program students go beyond the traditional PhD requirements, receiving entrepreneurial and leadership training through special coursework and experiential learning opportunities, including an internship in a startup or pursuing their own venture. In their final three years, Innovation students receive independent funding to support development of their own innovations. Two program participants launched successful companies—the Mobile Product Authentication™ service Sproxil and the utility-scale energy storage company SustainX. Other Innovation Program participants are in earlier stages of translating advanced research—in areas such as new medical devices and pharmaceuticals, power conversion advances, and new materials to make power plant more efficient—into viable enterprises. Helble is dean of Thayer and a professor of engineering.