Forum 2015 to explore the future of libraries

June 16, 2015

Welcome to Mesa THINKspot, the future of libraries.

Walk into the building at the intersection of Mesa’s Power Road and Decatur Street and you’ll see the usual library sights – rows of bookshelves, reading nooks, a book return and a reference desk. But beyond the regular features is a makerspace, where ideas can be cultivated and realized. Mesa THINKspot The THINKspot network makes ASU-sponsored educational programming accessible to local entrepreneurs and business owners through member libraries and other institutions. Photo courtesy of Download Full Image

The spot is brightly lit with colorful walls, 3-D printers, a podcasting studio, rows of computers and a collaborative workspace.

“Traditionally, libraries have encouraged quiet absorption of knowledge and reflection with few assigned spaces for creative exchanges,” said Sarah Prosory, Mesa THINKspot coordinator and Librarian III at the Mesa Public Library – Red Mountain Branch. “Through THINKspot, we are trying to inspire conversation and exchange of innovative ideas from the get go.”

On THINKspot’s walls, words such as “change,” “communicate,” “people,” and “collaboration” set the tone for what the space hopes to inspire – collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurship – a goal it hopes to achieve with the help of Arizona State University’s Entrepreneurship Outreach Network.

The network, previously known as the Alexandria Co-working Network, is a membership-based, collaborative group of libraries that work to advance and support the growth of entrepreneurial mindset as well as skillset among community members, regardless of their background and education.

“Libraries are trusted and accessible spaces in our communities. Through the network, we work collaboratively with libraries to provide the public with access to entrepreneurship resources that can minimize the risks and costs associated with launching a startup,” said Audrey Iffert-Saleem, executive director of entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives at ASU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “This work is especially important in communities that are historically underserved by entrepreneurship programs.”

The network, which received a $249,000 grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services, makes ASU-sponsored educational programming, such as ASU Startup School, accessible to local entrepreneurs and business owners through member libraries and other institutions.

ASU Startup School provides an open-source educational platform for development of startup ventures. Each site is connected with partners, including local economic development professionals and support staff from ASU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E+I), who help design and execute programs offered by each location.

“Programs that work closely with the community in a concerted effort to bring entrepreneurship education beyond the walls of academia are rare,” said Iffert-Saleem.

Because of that, Iffert-Saleem said they will host Forum 2015, an event aimed at bringing together creative minds from the fields of academia, library science, and economic development to explore solutions that support a diverse group of entrepreneurs and connect with thought leaders from other innovative communities.

Forum 2015 will be held on June 18-19 at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center in Chandler, Arizona. It will feature a keynote by Michael Porter, branch operations administrator ­– innovation and strategies at Maricopa County Library Districts.

The form will include hands-on workshops; sessions on topics such as building a mentor network, marketing entrepreneurship programs, evaluating success and supporting makers; networking sessions; a panel discussion on supporting diverse entrepreneurs; and a group ideation session on supporting entrepreneurs in the community.

“Working alongside librarians to ask, ‘How can we join forces to further advance our libraries as powerhouses of entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development?’ will inform initiatives that continue to build and leverage resources, empowering community gathering spaces across the country,” Iffert-Saleem said.

More information regarding the Entrepreneurship Outreach Network can be found here. Information on Forum 2015 is available here.

Media projects manager, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

ASU's Polytechnic School leading engineering education revolution

June 16, 2015

Arizona State University is launching a project to revolutionize engineering education by creating a learning environment that values risk-taking, innovation and creativity among its students and faculty.

Faculty of the Polytechnic School, one of the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, will lead the project. The school, under the leadership of director Ann McKenna, has been selected to receive one of only six $2 million grants awarded this week by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Shawn Jordan NSF RED Award Shawn Jordan, center, assistant professor of engineering education, works on STEAM labs with his students. The program challenges student teams to apply the engineering design process to build chain-reaction machines. Photo by: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU Download Full Image

The awards are part of NSF’s revolutionizing engineering departments program, known as RED.

“An underlying premise of RED is that department heads can be critical levers for change,” said Donna Riley, NSF program director for engineering education research. “RED focuses on transforming department structure and faculty reward systems to stimulate comprehensive change in policies, practices and curricula.”

McKenna is the principal investigator on the grant, with the team including co-investigators Samantha Brunhaver, Shawn Jordan, Nadia Kellam and Micah Lande. Their project, titled “Additive Innovation: An Educational Ecosystem of Making and Risk Taking,” will focus on the Polytechnic School’s engineering and manufacturing engineering programs, and will further develop previously tested and refined engineering education research done by the group.

According to McKenna, the project will provide the foundation to build upon successful innovations in the programs’ project-based sequence to improve the entire undergraduate experience, including technical core courses – such as mechanics and electrical theory ­– taught during sophomore and junior years.

The premise is that students learn complex theories better when they are actively engaged in applying the concepts to solve real-life, meaningful problems.

“Engineering schools have done a great job introducing students to project-based learning in first year courses and implementing it in senior projects, but teaching of the core curriculum has remained relatively unchanged,” McKenna said.

The Polytechnic School already focuses on an education ecosystem that empowers faculty to be agents of change in the way they teach courses, and the plan is to grow this to include all faculty members.

A defining focus of the school is the four-year project sequence. Students are to be “engineers from day one,” exemplifying what sets the Fulton Schools apart. The pioneering eProjects program brings students, faculty and industry together to find innovative solutions to real-world problems.

“We are able to attract and retain students of the highest potential because of the exemplary interdisciplinary team-based learning experiences that these projects provide,” McKenna said. “The longer-term impacts of creating a culture that values risk taking and making include attracting a new kind of student to the field of engineering. In particular, students who seek career options in which they can make a positive impact on the world, or on their specific community, who may not have traditionally considered engineering.”

The project will take place over five years. As first steps the research team is creating a business model canvas, which is a strategic management tool used by lean startups. It will identify the current engineering education ecosystem, talk to members of the faculty, students and industry partners to gather input and determine what they need to redesign and revolutionize undergraduate engineering education.

What they learn will help them create workshops for faculty where they will share tools and techniques to empower them to reinvent their own courses – part of the additive innovation philosophy. Students also will be resources for faculty in helping them learn to use tools and manufacturing equipment in the schools’ Start Up Lab they may not be familiar with.

“By empowering and rewarding risk-taking, making, and additive innovation among faculty and students we create a culture of change agents in the organization where everyone is able to modify and innovate the curriculum and learning experience, and this can lead to amazing transformation,” McKenna said.

Other universities and colleges chosen to lead this effort include Purdue University, Colorado State University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of San Diego and Oregon State University.

Sharon Keeler