ELD and DESIGN graduate programs explored through case competition


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In October, the Engineering Leadership Development (ELD) program collaborated with the Engineering-Consulting Collaborative (E-CC) to design a case competition to introduce students to the graduate degrees offered in Engineering Leadership and Innovation Management (ELIM) and Engineering Design (DESIGN). Both programs are housed in the College of Engineering’s School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP).

Organized and hosted by E-CC, the Engineering Leadership and Design Case Competition provided students with opportunities to provide solutions to a real case study using concepts taught in SEDTAPP’s graduate programs.

“When I heard about this competition I was excited for the opportunity to get more involved in the [Engineering Leadership Development undergraduate] minor and meet more of the students who share similar leadership goals as I do,” Ethan Goodstein, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, said. “I was eager to have to opportunity to use the knowledge I learned from the minor to this case competition.”

The premise of the competition was based on Penn State’s vast and lauded system of online higher education. While Penn State offers residential courses, certificates and degrees in more than 150 various fields, fewer online engineering undergraduate programs are available due to the challenges in curricular requirements, such as labs and teamwork.

Sixteen teams comprised of engineering and business students were “hired” as a team of innovative thinkers tasked with exploring how an engineering course can be transformed effectively for online delivery.  The online class needed to include the same active, collaborative and professionally oriented classroom experiences as typical residential course. Team solutions needed to align with concepts taught in the ELIM and DESIGN graduate programs, including understanding the strategic initiatives of the client in order to devise a creative problem and using design thinking to create a solution. Central to SEDTAPP, the client's, strategic initiatives, the competition required alignment with President Barron’s One Penn State 2025 initiative, the driving digital innovation thematic priority outlined in Penn State’s Strategic Plan and ABET accreditation standards.

“Our goal was to expose students to engineering leadership and engineering design concepts important for engineers to be successful in their careers. We asked that students consider how to pitch their idea keeping the strategic plans of a company in mind,” Mike Erdman, professor of practice and Walter L. Robb Director of Engineering Leadership Development, said. “We also wanted to expose students to our graduate program in DESIGN as we required students to apply design thinking to create innovative solutions and efficiently present and pitch those solutions in alignment with the company’s strategic initiatives.”

Each team was given 10 minutes to present solutions “in a creative manner” to a panel of judges made of ELD and DESIGN faculty members. Students were evaluated on their application of design and strategic thinking to their recommended solution, as well as their presentation and delivery. Pierre Franklin, an electrical engineering junior, noted his learning experience in alignment with the goals of the case. 

“To start, most of us entered the competition seeking engineering experience in a business perspective. Soon after, strangely enough on the first night, everything clicked and we got along and worked together perfectly. Learning the importance of communication and the process of pitching an idea and not just creating one which is equally as important,”  Franklin said. 

Four teams advanced to the finals. First place was awarded to Goodstein, Ryan Funk, a senior studying material sciences, and Hussain Albaharani, a junior studying biomedical engineering. The team received $1,000 for their The Sims video game inspired solution to address their strategic student engagement initiatives within the sphere of online learning.

“I felt it [the competition] was a great way for me to implement what I have been learning at Penn State and in the ELD minor so far. I also wanted to know more about what is like to be in an engineering consultant position working in a project,” Albahrani said. “The whole experience was valuable to me, but what stood out the most is to know how to think and build a project based on the user needs or in this case, what SEDTAPP was looking for.”

Second place honors were given to a team comprised of Franklin; Kabir Kohli, a mathematics junior; Likhith Shyam Gowkanapalli, a mechanical engineering senior; Ayokanmi Olaniyi Aloko, a mechanical engineering junior; and Jung Min Park, a mechanical engineering junior. The team received $500 for its idea that combines existing teaching technology with virtual reality.

“With the support of SEDTAPP, we were able to successfully bring engineering and business students to work together on a project,” Anushka Kapur, the president of the E-CC and finance senior, said. “I want our members and associates to be able to learn essential skills like teamwork, communication and critical thinking to be successful in the professional world.”

The E-CC is a student organization that brings students studying business and engineering together to host and participate in various competitions that foster the collaborations essential to today’s corporate environment. The club often hosts and participates in competitions that encourage the “development of problem-solving and cross-discipline teamwork.”


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Varshini Chellapilla, sxc5773@psu.edu

Samantha Chavanic, smh5218@psu.edu

“I want our members and associates to be able to learn essential skills like teamwork, communication and critical thinking to be successful in the professional world.”



The School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) delivers effective engineering education and unrivaled research opportunities through active, collaborative, project-based, and professionally oriented classroom experiences. SEDTAPP offers a variety of programs that partner faculty, students, and industry in the study of real-life engineering problems. Our programs teach students to solve real-life problems with innovative solutions. 

School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs

213 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2952