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Students leading innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives for peers

Two engineering students and two business students are charged with continuing the momentum that Ohio State’s University Innovation Fellows started last year.

Astha Rastogi, Erica Carlson, Nolan Hanna and Amun Mehta will participate in the highly-selective University Innovation Fellows program, which empowers students to increase campus engagement with innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and design thinking. They are among 358 students from 96 higher education institutions in 16 countries.

University Innovation Fellows(l to r) Astha Rastogi, Nolan Hanna, Erica Carlson and Amun Mehta
Rastogi is a computer science and engineering major, Carlson a finance major, Hanna is studying chemical engineering and Mehta is an operations management major. Two of them are enrolled in the Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) Honors program. Last year’s class of fellows— engineering students Liyang Feng, George Valcarcel and Kai Vogeler and logistics management major Juan Tramontin—recruited applicants for the new class, and then reviewed and selected the four finalists.

Rastogi thinks Ohio State is fertile ground for student innovation and entrepreneurship. “Buckeyes are a palette of different backgrounds, stories, cultures, and values,” she said. “Leveraging a little bit of that every day is so exciting and important as we strive to think more creatively.”

This year’s class of Fellows will begin investigating the potential for an innovation lab on campus. Their research has identified a need for a physical space where students can access equipment and materials to pursue their innovation aspirations.

Last year’s quartet launched a new organization, Interdisciplinary Resource for Innovative Students (IRIS), where Buckeyes come together to ideate and prototype solutions to everyday problems. They regularly hold workshops and design-flash events featuring industry experts and open to all students.

University Innovation Fellows at each school work to ensure that their peers gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future and make a positive impact on the world. To accomplish this, Fellows advocate for lasting institutional change and create opportunities for students to engage with innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and creativity at their schools. The program is run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school).

The Department of Engineering Education supports the Fellows with faculty advisors and some funding through its Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) grant. As requested by KEEN, three of the Fellows—Valcarcel, Rastogi and Hanna—are contributing to curriculum and class material development. They also serve as undergraduate teaching assistants.

Faculty advisor Peter Rogers believes the University Innovation Fellows program is helping develop an entrepreneurial culture among students. “We now have eight very active students who enjoy reaching out to their classmates. And since none are graduating this year, they will definitely sustain the momentum that started last year.”

Meet Ohio State’s new Fellows in this video they produced as part of their application package.