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New Class Bridges Engineering And Economics

SOCORRO, N.M. February 15, 2016 – Dr. Ashok Ghosh has another class of mechanical engineering students learning about entrepreneurship this semester. Engineering Science 316: Engineering Economics features teams of students developing research, marketing and business plans for innovative projects.

During the fall 2015 semester, the ES 316 class featured nine teams working on a variety of interesting projects, from entertainment businesses to technology companies. Ghosh is teaching the class again this semester, with student teams currently deciding on their project focus.

“In junior and senior design clinic, we create technical know-how,” Ghosh said. “In my class, students will take technology and become aware of new opportunities. You can have your livelihood and also capture part of the market. This is another option opening up for you.”

Throughout the semester, teams of students learn about the economics of starting a business and put together a business plan. The class culminates with group presentations that could serve as a pitch to potential investors – explaining the business concept, finances and the market opportunities.

“They will do a market analysis on a particular design or concept and see if there’s a market for that,” Ghosh said. “If it’s a good concept, maybe one or two could become an entrepreneur.”

Ghosh invites expert speakers from Sandia, Los Alamos and the Tech campus to discuss important topics, such as patent law, intellectual property, business plan and visual presentations.

“We are looking at how to get expected value from a business plan,” Ghosh said. “Also, they learn how to look at good sources of information. Assumptions must be based on data from good sources to make good evaluations.”

Kami Hooper led a team in the fall 2015 semester that worked on a project called “Beyond Seasoning.” Hooper and her husband produce an organic seasoning blend that they are interested in marketing. She and her teammates – Alex Mayer, Brian McLaughlan and Armin Abbasi – developed a business plan for the company.

“I didn’t know how to evaluate equipment before,” Hooper said. “Now we have math formulas that we can apply to which equipment to purchase for the company. We know how much to charge and how many units we need to sell to break even.”

Hooper said her goal is to enter the workforce as a mechanical engineer, but she’d also like to start her own company.

“This class gave me insights into things I wasn’t seeing,” she said. “We learned a lot of real math concepts that apply to business.”

Another team in the fall 2015 cohort examined selling 3-D printers. Juan Carlos Molina, Jacob James, Ramon Martinez and Ritchie Chicas got the idea from working with 3-D printers as a design clinic team.

Martinez said, “This class helped us see realistically how to start a business. It’s intimidating, but also exciting.”

The team called existing companies in New Mexico to learn how businesses operate, which helped them devise their business plan.

“In the next few years, 3-D printing will be a big business and there will be lot of money in the industry,” Chicas said. “This is a good class to calculate the costs in starting a business.”

Other group projects last semester included a dine-in theater, heat exchangers, commercial truck rentals, a bowling alley, a Chinese take-out restaurant, a coffee shop and a bar/grill. Ghosh said he hopes that ES 316 fosters the entrepreneurial spirit and that students continue to work on their business idea.

“Hopefully they will be motivated to think of becoming an entrepreneur as a possibility,” he said. “Next year, I want to be coaching them on their ideas.”

– NMT –