S2-IC1-4 - Project Development in an Entrepreneurship Setting

1. Innovative Practice Full Paper
Pedro Fonseca1
1 Universidade de Aveiro, Instituto de Telecomunicações

Project based learning contributes to instil a wider view of the professional activities in the students, in contrast to classroom lecturing. For a practicing Engineer in the workplace today, expected skills go beyond the technical skills and working in a team. A mandatory requirement is the ability to interface with a customer: how to understand the client needs and how to deliver a suitable result. This paper describes the results of an experiment on Project based activities in a course unit of an Engineering degree, that aims at creating an environment that promotes the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills. In this course unit, groups of 4 to 6 students develop a project to solve a problem proposed by a company. Each team acts as an engineering company, providing a service to their customer. During project development, a member of the University staff and a representative of the company, which acts as a customer, supervise each team.  To create an environment similar to a business environment, student teams participate in a bid for the projects they want to develop, competing with other groups. All groups start by preparing project proposals that the companies assess, similarly to what they would do with proposals from subcontracted companies. At the end of this process, the proposing companies rank the proposals received and a match is made between companies and students’ preferences. The choice for this approach results from the perception that it fosters students’ autonomy and responsibility and, thus, better prepares students for the transition into professional life. The success of the project will depend on the level of commitment in preparing their proposal, which requires, among other things, clearly understanding the client needs, developing an adequate solution and being able to communicate their ideas in the proposal. A survey, conducted at the end of the academic year, assessed the results obtained with this process. The responses show generalized approval of this model by both parties involved (students and supervisors) showing that, at least from their perspective, the proposed assignment process attended the expected results.