New Educational Institute Seeks to Cross-train Engineers

Carnegie Mellon programs combine engineering, design and business

When it comes to training engineers, methods have been ever-evolving. First it was based on a practical, apprenticeship model, then a more theoretical/analytical model took over. More recently there has been a shift toward a multidisciplinary model where aspects of entrepreneurship, business or other “non-traditional” engineering topics are incorporated. These new programs seek to streamline innovation, but can innovative thinking really be reduced to a science?

If you were to ask that question to Jonathan Cagan of Carnegie Mellon University, the answer is definitely a “yes.” Cagan is the co-director of the new Integrated Innovation Institute. “Innovation can be studied, formalized, taught — and continuously improved upon with new knowledge,” Cagan said in a recent press release from the school.

The Institute was formed to combine three disciplines: engineering, design and business. Essentially, the goal is prepare students to achieve innovative solutions that are functional (engineering), practical (design) and economical (business). A product that doesn’t work, or doesn’t work well within human constraints isn’t going to sell, even if the price point is reasonable.

This is not simply an engineering degree with a couple of business and design classes strapped on the end. The Master of Integrated Innovation for Products & Services (MII-PS) program has core classes from all three disciplines and elective choices to further refine interests. The Institute also offers master’s degrees in Software Management and Integrated Media which share the common theme of collaborative, cross-disciplinary training.

The curriculum includes capstone projects based on industry and institute-sponsored challenges. This work is enabled through dedicated laboratory space, where complex corporate and societal issues are addressed through integration of engineering, design and business practice. These targeted endeavors allow for real experiences in addressing open-ended problems.

The move toward engineering programs which incorporate entrepreneurship and industrial exposure in a multidisciplinary way are becoming more common. Whether innovation is teachable or not, providing opportunity and resources at least enables those who have a predisposition toward it to succeed.

The video below describes more about the ideas behind the institute.

Image courtesy of Carnegie Mellon Integrated Innovation Institute