University receives KEEN grant to strengthen engineering

By Meghan Finlayson

Staff Writer

This past summer, the Kern Family Foundation gave the University a $75,000 grant to be used over two years. The grant was created for engineers to promote an action-oriented entrepreneurial mindset.

The Kern Family Foundation focuses its funding towards long-term programs that promote systemic change. The Foundation created the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) in 2005 as a collegiate initiative to increase the quantity and quality of U.S. engineering talent. The longterm goal of the program is to help students learn how to contribute economic and technical commerce in their communities.

“[The grant] fundamentally provides support to the College of Engineering for introducing students to a more entrepreneurially-minded approach to their engineering education through course work, speakers and site visits,” Dean Keith Buffinton said.

The KEEN program supports select private U.S. colleges and universities that offer strong engineering programs. The University was one of five universities selected this year.

“We were selected to become part of the KEEN group through a competitive proposal process,” Buffinton said.

“Bucknell’s reputation in undergraduate engineering education certainly helped get the attention of the Kern Family Foundation. Also, many of our faculty in engineering are very active in sharing ideas through conference presentations and publishing their work in journals,” said David Foreman, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations.

The College of Engineering has many plans to make the most of the funds from the grant.

“Our goal is to expose 100 percent of our engineering students to an entrepreneurial mindset,” Buffinton said.

There are plans underway for a program in January that will feature students coming together to work on a project related to one of the ‘grand challenges’ identified by the National Academy of Engineering.

“We’re planning on having a one and a half-week multidisciplinary design experience for freshmen and sophomores. The students will work in teams composed of peers in different disciplines in engineering to address a relevant problem that affects global society and create a proof-of-concept prototype [displaying their ideas],” said Charles Kim, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

As a result of this program, “they will learn about major issues in technology and society that include innovation, sustainability, biotechnology, and energy,” he said.

The funding will also go towards courses such as ENGR 100, campus speakers on innovation and entrepreneurship and field trips to visit businesses and corporations.

“Faculty members will also have the opportunity to develop new teaching methods that they learn from workshops and collaborative activities with pedagogy experts and faculty at other institutions. This will improve courses with the infusion of new ideas,” Foreman said.

The College of Engineering is brainstorming ideas on how it can continue to make the most of the grant.

“The staff at the Kern Family Foundation wants to work with us and develop ideas and programs that fit our needs … [it] also provides us access to a network of diverse institutions. We can share ideas and both teach and learn from innovators in engineering education,” Foreman said.

“There were a lot of great ideas that came out of the summer institute in the College of Engineering that are still under development,” Kim said.

The grant is not only a great achievement for the College of Engineering, but for the University as a whole. 

“Bucknell is well known for innovative, active and collaborative teaching and learning. We are using our strength in those areas and working with the KFF to continue to build ourselves as educators,” Buffington said.

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