Bringing entrepreneurship competition to engineering students

November 26, 2019 | 09:16
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The United States Agency for International Development's BUILD-IT (Building University-Industry Learning and Development through Innovation and Technology) and the Dow Vietnam STEM Programme have hosted an investor-style pitch competition for over 60 engineering students from across Vietnam.
bringing entrepreneurship competition to engineering students
USAID's BUILD-IT and the Dow Vietnam STEM Programme hosted a pitch competition for engineering students in Vietnam

The young engineers gathered at the American Center in Ho Chi Minh City to compete for a total of $1,000 in startup funding at the Maker to Entrepreneur (MEP): Venture Demo Day. The business savvy demonstrated by the students exemplified how engineers can use market forces to scale their innovative projects into in-demand products.

During Venture Demo Day, a panel of four industry judges scored the students’ on the quality of evidence that supports their product’s real-world demand. Teams from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Danang University of Technology, and Lac Hong University won the first, second, and third place, respectively.

The first place winner developed an elderly care product which can warm an elderly person’s foot and improve their blood circulation. Danang University of Technology took home second place with a multi-purpose robot, and Lac Hong University won third place with a fertiliser that the students are already selling at trade shows. The judges were impressed by the customer feedbacks, evidence of sales, and professional English presented in during the students’ pitch.

The MEP programme is one of several applied project programmes supported by the Dow Vietnam STEM Programme which inspires students to use innovation and entrepreneurship to support sustainable community development. Through practical education and a strong awareness of sustainable development, the STEM Programme helps young inventors commercialise and scale their innovations.

The 11 teams competing at Venture Demo Day developed their innovative engineering projects during the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) programme held in early 2019. During summer 2019, Arizona State University faculty trained over 30 Vietnamese engineering faculty to develop entrepreneurship lessons tailored to young engineers.

The Vietnamese faculty then mentored leading EPICS teams to advance their engineering projects into variable products and pitch their products at Venture Demo Day. The Maker to Entrepreneur Programme gave both engineering faculty and their students the capacity to bridge the divide between engineering and business education.

For the third consecutive year, the USAID’s BUILD-IT Alliance, implemented by Arizona State University, partnered with the Dow Vietnam STEM Programme to support student-led innovation and service learning at Vietnamese universities.

The Dow Vietnam STEM programme’s sponsorship provided funding for students’ product development, faculty support, and industry-based mentoring to ensure that MEP students developed the skillset and self-confidence needed to be entrepreneurs. The Dow Vietnam STEM Programme is committed to running a second round of MEP in the spring semester to continue turning makers into entrepreneurs.

The USAID BUILD-IT Alliance is a five-year public-private partnership founded to support world-class engineering programmes and create work-ready graduates in Vietnam. Implemented by Arizona State University, the Alliance has over 16 industry partners and 11 Vietnamese university partners. Collaboration between the Alliance members strengthens university-industry linkages and introduces venture-based learning programmes such as MEP into Vietnamese STEM programmes.

By Le Quyen

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