Creating a mechanical system to produce small balls of composite material to save honeybees, designing a low-tech, low-energy air conditioner or dreaming up smart shoes that can charge a smartphone: these are the Léonard innovation projects that 4th-year engineering students in the ECAM Arts et Métiers program worked on this year.
The Léonard projects: entrepreneurial education
Through the Léonard projects, engineering students develop their creativity and gain greater awareness of what setting up a company involves. Put in real-life situations requiring innovation and project management, the students:
- Identify customer needs through a market study, competitive analysis, etc.
- Write functional specifications (to convert customer needs into technical functions)
- Take part in group brainstorming and design sessions
- Offer creative, innovative solutions while ensuring their concept is technically feasible (converting functions into technical solutions)
Following this yearlong effort, each team must argue the merits of its project. This is done during an open-air pitch, through the creation of communication and promotional materials and during the defense of a project report. These deliverables enable them to become more at ease speaking in public and to understand the ins and outs of communication.
Acquiring the skills of a future engineer through practice
The Léonard projects fit in perfectly with the innovative, action-oriented educational style emphasized by ECAM Lyon in all of its engineering training programs. Beyond their “learning by doing” dimension, these cross-disciplinary projects encourage cooperation between fields of study and give students an early opportunity to deal with the diverse challenges of project management and team work. Such skills will prove key in their future careers.
For these engineering students, the Léonard projects go beyond the mere framework of the classroom, as some choose to develop their concept by creating a start-up that can then join ECAM Lyon’s TECH360 incubator. Find out more about entrepreneurship at ECAM Lyon.
Creative, innovative topics to develop entrepreneurship
Every year, the subjects change. Proposed by ECAM’s teachers and researchers, by companies and non-profits, or by students themselves, these subjects must:
- Be creative and innovative
- Be a product or service related to mechatronics (i.e. bring together mechanical engineering, energy, materials and structures, electronics, automation and informatics)
This year, many students chose to work on innovations related to sustainable development. From the design of a mechanical system to produce small balls made out of composite material to save honeybees, to a low-tech, low-energy air conditioner to a system to measure energy consumption in real time, ECAM engineering students strove to use their skills to help build a more sustainable future with a greater focus on the environment.
Other projects focused on improving devices used in our everyday lives: a smart oven that turns off automatically once your dish is cooked, shoes that can charge a smartphone, a smart, autonomous window-cleaning robot, and earplugs with a built-in wakeup alarm.