An experiment in experiential learning


Over the course of 10 weeks this summer in the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box], a group of talented engineering students participated in a pilot program comprised of multidisciplinary teams tackling important company innovation problems. The Innovation Fellows project was the brainchild of Lisa Camp, associate dean of strategic initiatives at the Case School of Engineering, and Malcolm Cooke, executive director of Sears think[box].

“We learned a lot this summer,” she said. “From a fellow perspective, we were able to provide an experience that taught them how to manage multiple projects at once, how to implement an innovation process and how to engage with different types of company cultures who all had a different understanding of ‘innovation.’ Honing the skills of communication, emotional intelligence, patience and perseverance were by-products of the summer program, skills that each student will be taking with them to their next project.”

From a company perspective, Camp added, the program was able to show that small projects within a 10-week window nets information and outcomes that can move a business unit or program forward. Of the six projects that the students teamed on, all either met or exceeded their original deliverables. “In fact, one company gained additional business based on the work of the fellows,” she said.

With the model now tested and a market study in place that shows the ability of the program to become sustainable, Camp said the next step is to identify initial funding for a staff position to manage the program and move to full scale.

“This experience has been highly valuable in helping me develop skills and see where my weaknesses lie. Asking questions and effectively communicating is something I discovered I can improve upon, both in personal and professional settings. From company visits and talks with Case alumni, I have learned that taking risks and exploring is crucial to finding what you like and that there is no set career formula to follow after graduation. This program has been challenging, uncomfortable, and frustrating at times, but I know it will help me down the line as I come across new challenges.” - Lauren Ficek, Junior, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering