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Our Competitive Edge

When talking to his students — tomorrow’s aerospace engineers — about future job opportunities, Sid Gunasekaran is completely honest.

“You can’t go to an employer and say, ‘Hire me. I’m smart.’ So, how do you differentiate yourself from your peers? With your mindset. Your ability to find an opportunity in a problem. Thinking outside the box,” said Gunasekaran.

KEEN faculty

He ensures his students will have this edge by applying a teaching philosophy he learned through the University of Dayton’s involvement with KEEN — a network of faculty from across the country transforming engineering education.

The University’s 10-year partnership with KEEN, or the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network, began with a generous grant in 2008 from the organization behind KEEN, The Kern Family Foundation. It continues to blossom thanks to their ongoing support, including a $2 million grant this year.

Through KEEN workshops and online idea sharing, numerous faculty members have dramatically enhanced their coursework.

“KEEN teaches you how you can incorporate entrepreneurially minded learning [EML] into your classroom,” said Gunasekaran.

“It’s not about students becoming business owners and starting a company — although if they do, that’s great. It’s more about connecting multiple aspects of their education to create something that will turn out to be different, new and useful.”

This EML approach inspired Gunasekaran to present sophomore students with a challenge: How can concepts of flight — aerodynamics, propulsion, etc. — be used to solve problems that people face on a day-to-day basis?

“The ideas that came out of this module were amazing,” he said. “One team wanted to design a house which could withstand a Category 5 hurricane. They designed internal vents that allow air to move easily from one part of the house to the other, minimizing the pressure difference, which prevents the roof from lifting up. They actually created small prototypes of the house with vents and tested them in a wind tunnel.”

When Gunasekaran first began teaching at UD, his approach was standard — but being exposed to KEEN has changed that. “Of course the foundational knowledge is critical, but if you don’t teach the proper mindset, the skill set won’t matter. The mindset differentiates our students.”

Community and Nationwide Partnerships

The Kern Family Foundation’s recent $2 million grant is making an impact for engineering students.

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Students Taking the Lead

The Kern Family Foundation’s support provides opportunities for students to spread the EML philosophy on campus.

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