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Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in the Department of Architecture at NDSU

This is the story of the educational program created by Dr. Ganapathy Mahalingam in the academic year 2020, during the pandemic, in the Department of Architecture at North Dakota State University.

The genesis of the educational program happened in the fall semester of 2019, when Dr. Mahalingam was awarded a faculty fellowship in the Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth. As part of the activities for the fellowship, Dr. Mahalingam proposed a two-course sequence that would lead to the creation of software products for the design professions in developing economies, such as India.

The first course in the sequence was a graduate seminar offered in the spring semester of 2020, in which students of Architecture and Landscape Architecture learned about innovation, global trade, entrepreneurship and the economic system of free markets. In this seminar, the students developed ideas and business plans for their software products.

The second course was the advanced studio in the fall semester of 2020, in which students created prototypes of their projects and finalized their business plans. It is notable that the students will be working with cohorts from the CARE School of Architecture in India to further develop and market their products, making the initiatives global in collaboration. The students were also required to enter the entrepreneurial idea based on their software product in the Innovation Challenge competition. One of the teams, comprising Zachary Kuntz and Blaze Irwin, was selected as a finalist in the Innovation Challenge 2020 competition.

Addressing the Core Mission of the Sheila and Robert Challey Institute of Global Innovation and Growth

This educational program addressed the mission and many of the core objectives of the Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth at NDSU. These aspects are described briefly in the section that follows:

Innovation: There were seven software teams in the fall semester studio working on innovative software products for the design professions in developing economies. Each software product addresses some aspect of the design profession of Architecture and Urban Planning in these developing economies. Dr. Mahalingam facilitated this process of innovation among our graduate students by teaching them about tools, techniques and methodologies to develop the products. The teams received input from global collaborators in this process.  Each of the software teams entered the Innovation Challenge competition at NDSU in 2020. This is a direct engagement in innovation by NDSU students.

Entrepreneurship: The seven software teams each developed a business plan to launch a business entity to implement their innovation. Dr. Mahalingam facilitated, and continues to guide the students, in the development of these business plans. This is a direct engagement of NDSU students in entrepreneurship.

Trade: Since all the software products being developed are for developing economies, mainly India, the students are learning about direct and indirect trade barriers in launching their products in such global markets. They will also be learning about global distribution channels such as Google Play and its advantages and limitations. The hope is that, in the end, NDSU students would engage in global digital trade.

Institutions: We are planning to engage with Schools of Architecture and non-profit incubators for entrepreneurship in India such as the Nudge Foundation, and learning about how these institutions can help the global innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives of NDSU students.

Policies: At the end of the fellowship activities, we will be able to articulate implications for intellectual property policies at NDSU and the NDUS, when our students collaborate with global cohorts in the development of intellectual property.

Software products coming out of this studio include, a translator for architectural jargon, augmented reality based assistants for construction sites, a climate-based design advisor, a quick code searcher based on location, an exchange for young architects to find clients, a connecter for the disabled, and a reality checker for residential projects. The development of these 7 software products has created the potential for 15 NDSU students to become millionaires.

Watch out for some of these products in online app stores and subscription web sites!

Areas of Instruction in this Educational Program

Software Development: Direct instruction was provided for the creation of the prototypes of the software products being developed covering 3 main software authoring platforms. The 3 software authoring platforms were MIT's AppInventor, SpreadsheetConverter and Conversations with Amazon Alexa.

Authoring Business Plans: Direct instruction was provided for the creation of business plans using the online platform LivePlan.

Deployment to Market: Direct instruction in how to deploy the software products to market on Google Play.

Promotional Pitch Video Development: Review and guidance was provided for the creation of promotional pitch videos for the software products being developed. Software platforms explored for the creation of the pitch videos included, Adobe Premiere, Microsoft Powerpoint and Loom.

Understanding the Principles of Free Markets and Trade: Students reviewed the noted Economist, Milton Friedman's work on Capitalism and Freedom; the viewpoint and principles of Capitalism from Ayn Rand; and the Principles of Economics from Ray Dalio. They also reviewed the Digital India initiative and the movements in Africa for the development of digital trade.

Join Our Global Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

This educational program comprising a two-course sequence is the foundation for an entrepreneurial ecosystem being developed in the Department of Architecture at NDSU. In the near future, plans are to expand this ecosystem to cover the students and faculty from the other departments of the School of Design, Architecture and Art, and entities in the larger NDSU community, such as the Nice Center. This web page is to serve as a resource for interested parties to become familiar with the formation of this ecosystem and participate in its development.

Building this ecosystem has been the Nice Leap of Dr. Mahalingam, as a Faculty Fellow at the Nice Center at NDSU.

This initiative was recently recognized with an article on the home page of the NDSU web site.

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NDSU is not responsible or liable for its contents.