Vigilante Innovation (VIX): case study on the development of student skills through a team-based design process and environment
Oliver, Kendra H.
Ehrman, Jonathan D.
Marasco, Christina C.
Background: Many undergraduate students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields lack experience in collaborative thinking, limiting their effectiveness as they enter careers in academic and industrial environments. The SyBBURE Searle Undergraduate Research Program has incorporated a team-based design component into its curriculum to fill this gap in training. This design framework, called Vigilante Innovation (VIX) to highlight its emphasis on self-initiation and action, has evolved into a multi-semester-long group undertaking that combines just-in-time training in entrepreneurship and project design with student-driven collaborations aimed at solving a real-world problem. We hypothesize that this framework provides a hands-on, realistic workplace simulation task through which students can develop an understanding of teamwork. Results: Using a case-study approach, we discuss the development of the VIX design framework since its inception in 2014 and assess the impact of the VIX framework on student learning and growth using a student survey from 2016 to 2017 and student interviews from 2018. Conclusions: A flexible approach, an annualized project timeline, a student-driven prototyping space, and self-selecting project areas emerged as key contributors to the successful implementation of the VIX design and to deepened student learning. The diversity of VIX teams, the self-reported success of student projects, and student interviews indicate that students who participate in VIX possess an in-depth understanding of team-based strategies. These findings support the VIX framework as an effective method of providing undergraduates in STEM fields with efficient and meaningful exposure to the team-based entrepreneurial skills that are vital in their future careers. Additional work is needed to determine if this approach has a long-term impact on student success in team-based environments. The website vigilante innovation.com houses a customizable, freely available version of the design guide for educators and innovators alike.