Armstrong named Ohio State’s first Engineering Unleashed Fellow

Posted: October 19, 2020
Julia Armstrong

Julia Armstrong of The Ohio State University College of Engineering has been recognized as an Engineering Unleashed 2020 Fellow by the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). She is among just 29 faculty across the U.S. to receive this honor and the first from Ohio State.

Engineering Unleashed Fellows are faculty from higher education institutions who have been recognized for their contribution to engineering education, and specifically entrepreneurial engineering. They also were participants in the Engineering Unleashed Faculty Development Program, which highlights entrepreneurial minded learning as central to the development of engineering graduates prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world.

Armstrong, who serves as director of Ohio State’s OHI/O Informal Learning Program—which includes the annual hackathon—was chosen for her project to infuse more self-directed learning into the formal engineering curriculum. To amplify the impact of her work, she will receive $10,000 through the Kern Family Foundation.

“This project started by recognizing that KEEN values problem-based learning and industry connections, in addition to its 3Cs: curiosity, making connections, and creating value—all things that matter to me and the OHI/O mission,” said Armstrong.

Working in tandem with faculty from the Departments of Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), she learned that ECE 2020—a sophomore level electronic circuits course that is required for all ECE and computer science and engineering majors—would be a good candidate for piloting a new delivery method. 

The modified course will help bridge entrepreneurial minded learning (EML) between first and fourth year curricular options, said Armstrong.

“The First Year Engineering program at Ohio State is strong and well connected with KEEN, and the capstone program for fourth year around the college is becoming more connected to EML,” she said. “However, there is a drought in second and third year programs. This would be a breakthrough and could provide a model for other courses and departments.”

“The timing with the pandemic is serendipitous, as informal learning happens on the students' schedule and within much of their interests as it's often self-directed,” Armstrong explained. “Take home kits and exploratory projects will have a place in the course, which works very well in our new distance and hybrid instruction models.”

And with both Armstrong’s and ECE Professor Steve Bibyk’s existing connections to industry and startup companies, there are a number of potential guest speakers—many of whom are Buckeye engineers themselves—who could offer real-world applications of class topics, she added. The pilot course will be taught to a section of computer science and engineering (CSE) students in spring 2021, but if successful, could eventually be open to all ECE 2020 students.

“I am so excited to take the value of OHI/O learning models into the classroom. I truly believe in the impacts of hands-on experience and self-directed learning, especially when paired with real-world application. We can move beyond an hour or a weekend event into longer term projects with additional layers of experience and understanding.”

As part of a previously funded KEEN project, Armstrong will also join Professor Gonul Kaletunc’s cohort to help mentor engineering faculty on how to infuse EML into new or existing courses.

Ohio State joined the KEEN community in 2017.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications |