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Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) Honors Program Produces Well-Rounded Students to Meet Industry Needs

Students sitting at table top planning projectStudent teams developing design conceptsIn a unique collaboration, Ohio State’s College of Engineering and Fisher College of Business have partnered to offer the university’s only multidisciplinary honors program: the Integrated Business & Engineering (IBE) Honors program.  In addition to their regular coursework, students from both fields come together to work in multidisciplinary teams. Graduates receive a major in one field and a minor in another, making them well positioned to compete in globalized industries that are increasingly seeking well rounded applicants.

Dr. Peter Rogers, director of the program, comes to the College of Engineering with over 30 years of industry experience. He is enthusiastic about what he calls “experiential learning” for a number of reasons.

The program is a response to a common industry desire for “t-shaped” professionals (For more information, see  ASEE Transforming Undergraduate Education in Engineering), or those who—in addition to their primary disciplines—have strong professional skills, such as multidisciplinary teamwork, communication, critical thinking, project management, and leadership.  

Student team working with backpack designIBE Design projects simulate real-world challengesThe program simulates real-world challenges, allowing students to work together on different aspects of the product design and build process (research, design, prototyping, and marketing). The concept of “design thinking” is taught throughout both the freshman design program and the senior capstone design course where students learn to match user needs to feasible technology and produce customer value.

Industry experts frequently visit IBE classes to explain how different aspects of the process fit together; they give talks on things like Intellectual Property, How to Talk (And Listen) To Customers, Creativity, How To Raise Investment Capital, the Advantages of Manufacturing in Ohio.  These experts also judge the final business plan competition after the freshman course.

Many of the projects freshman students work on have a “social innovation” component, meaning they are designed to meet a social need. For example, students have been asked to interview people with arthritis, then to design products to help them (tools for opening and closing Ziplock® bags and child-safe jars, or for using a mop).  Senior capstone projects are sponsored by industry partners and teams create products by unlocking current knowhow and creating new markets.

Although it is rigorous, the program can also be lots of fun.  Students frequently “have a blast” in prototyping labs using 3D Printers ( ) to bring their products to life.

See a Visiting Speaker Lab Video:

They enjoy the chance to combine business acumen with creativity, and appreciate the resources the program provides (for example, students designing a hands-free harness for portaging canoes were able to design their own parts and produce them with 3-D printers).  To supplement the formal coursework, a student leadership team organizes extracurricular events (like visiting a medical product startup company or learning proper dining etiquette). 

While the IBE program is still relatively new, students and parents have expressed much interest in it.    To apply, a student must already be an Honors student in either Engineering or Business, and so far, many more apply than are accepted.  Students in the program make life-long contacts, and report that their experiences make it easier to get internships. 

The program was developed with help from Lehigh University, which has its own IBE program and was very generous with visitors from Ohio State. Visit here for more information about Ohio State’s IBE program.