Business students learn from faculty inventors

Students are getting a taste of real-world entrepreneurship in a new class in the School of Business Administration.

This semester, professor Erik Monsen is teaching a “Technology, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization” course. This course gives students the opportunity to work with real inventions created by UVM faculty and develop marketing strategies geared toward each product, Monsen said.

“If students are going to work in any sort of business, they’re going to be bumping into scientists and engineers,” Monsen said. “The sooner they learn to talk to – you can call them “geeks” – the better. And if they learn that inside the classroom, then so be it.”

Working with faculty from a number of fields has allowed students to get a better understanding of the realities of the business world, as well as develop a sense for working with other disciplines, Monsen said. Students in the course have been working with faculty in order to enhance their understanding of marketing and commercialization, specifically with new technologies, Monsen said.

One of the inventions used by Monsen’s students is a bamboo vertical wind turbine, created and developed by professors of engineering Ting Tan and Tian Xia. Bamboo is a very wind resistant grass, and it inspired Tan to create an energy structure that is more sustainable and usable, especially for people living in developing nations,Tan said.

“The compatibility between this turbine and the environment is very good,”  Tan said. “It can treat it more like a giant plant than an artificial structure, so that means that the relationship between the human structure and the natural environment is harmonized.”

Tan and Xia have been working with business students to develop a marketing strategy for his turbine, as well as promoting sustainability through the use of natural resources, Tan said. Monsen’s students presented the products in the hallways of Kalkin Hall March 17 and 19,  to get a sense of the importance and operation of a trade show, according to University Communications.

Working with UVM faculty benefits both the business students and the inventors,  Monsen said. Through their work, faculty could receive grants for their inventions and research, in part due to what the students have done, Monsen said. For him, the most rewarding part about teaching this course has been the reaction of students working with new technologies. They have to learn to “ pivot and change,” which makes the whole project very open-ended, Monsen said.

“Service-learning typically takes place outside of the university setting,” Monsen said. “I’m putting my own twist on it: my community is UVM. So if I can provide students with the means to give back to their own school, that’s pretty nice.”