At the Center for Entrepreneurship at Indiana University East, we teach with technology. Sometimes it’s the instructor teaching the students and, other times, it’s the students teaching the instructor. Over the past few years, we have utilized new equipment such as 3D printing, woodcarving, laser printing and other CNC machinery to understand the production of things like prototyping.
It was a group of three high school students in the BOSS, or Business Opportunities for Self-Starters, program that got the university started in making prototypes. The students created a prototype on their high school’s printer and used the prototype in a final business plan competition. That inspired the university to write a grant and buy a 3D printer for the university students.
As the university students were working with 3D images, they began to inquire into and explore other types of materials. The next grant was for a woodcarving machine, which created the desire for the laser carver and cutting machine. Currently, the students create products and prototypes from a variety of materials and make modifications as needed.
The students’ desire for new machinery has served as a strong academic stimulus for the instructors to write for grants and teach creation of manufacturing, distributions, packaging, pricing, time management and many other important components of business education.
Teaching with technology has strengthened the working relationship with our university and several of the local high schools. Sometimes students create prototypes for fun things such as Ping-Pong paddles, and other times it becomes more serious when working with area businesses. A student may assist a company to create a prototype for a patent application, for example. These experiences are great for the student, the university and the community.