Efforts aimed to equip Aggie engineering graduates with the skills, knowledge and experiences necessary for success in the industry have been one of the main focuses of the Texas A&M College of Engineering.
The college, ranked seventh among public engineering colleges and 14th overall in the 2018 U.S. News and World Report, is seeking to expand its record of producing academically and intellectually proficient students and professionals. This effort is part of the college’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, which attempts to bring students into contact with various aspects of the technology business, from startups to product commercialization.
“Everything we do here, it is as if it is your first job,” said Rodney Boehm, director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. “There has been patents come out from events like Aggies Invent. There are companies that have come out of these events. So there [are] things that are going on. So this does foster and it’s that excitement to get things going for entrepreneurship. It’s that initial spark of an idea. Once you have that then we help people continue on.”
The flagship initiative of the program has been the Aggies Invent series, which started in the summer of 2014 and is held three times a semester. Unlike other professional-oriented events, such as pitch competitions or hackathons, these events are typically themed intensive structured design experiences where students come together from across the university, and at times across the world, to create solutions and prototypes in just 48 hours.
Robert Shannon, chemical engineering sophomore, said he has participated in five Aggies Invent competitions and thinks they are a great way to gain practical experience.
“You get to feel like you’re really doing something outside of the classroom, and you do the part where it’s not like you just engineer and solve a problems — you also have to present it to other people,” Shannon said.
One of the most recent Aggies Invent events was Invent For The Planet. It focused on technology-centered sustainability solutions and took place across 14 different universities around the world during the same overlapping 48 hour period.
Illuminate was the winning Invent For The Planet team for Texas A&M, consisting of Adrianna Hernandez, Ann Nguyen, Vasant Kurvari, Sarojeet Deb and Adam Curtis. The team went on to compete against the winner from the other 13 universities on Feb. 26. Their project is an easy-to-assemble multiple light fixture for electricity deprived areas which is designed to be made using locally available materials and capable of using a variety of power sources.
Beyond the competition, the Illuminate members said they hope Aggies Invent and the broader Engineering Entrepreneurship Program will give them the opportunity to turn their idea into a fully marketable concept.
“Having a really open environment where we could bounce ideas off of each other and be honest enough to say ‘I like that’ or ‘I don’t like that’ — that’s what really drives the innovation,” electrical engineering junior Adam Curtis said.
One of the other opportunities offered by the program includes Inventeer Fellowships, part of the A&M engineering department, which serve as additional opportunities for student inventors to demonstrate to prospective employers that they have the skills that set them apart. The list of program initiatives also includes industry apprenticeships, networking sessions, engineering incubators and business accelerators.
“This is such a valuable experience for students that when they get a chance to talk to a recruiter, they get a chance to go into the industry, they will have already experienced this and they are ready to go to work and they get a chance to differentiate themselves from all the rest of the people applying for these jobs because they can talk about the experience and what they have accomplished here,” Boehm said.