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HESE offers a series of five courses that are open to third-year and fourth-year undergraduate and graduate students from all majors and colleges across Penn State. Typically, half of the students are engineering students, while the rest come from other colleges at the UniversityStudents can begin the program with either the ENGR 451 course in the fall or the EDSGN 452/453 courses in the spring. Second-year through fourth-year students are welcome to sign up. Many of the required HESE courses may also count for required courses in a major program. Please consult with the program director and your major adviser when scheduling. 

ENGR 451: Social Entrepreneurship 

3 credits

This course provides students with a conceptual framework of social entrepreneurship in the global arena. It explores social challenges and solutions with the help of case studies of successful and failed social ventures from diverse world regions and fields like healthcare, energy, food, education, income generation, access to capital, etc. Students work in multi-disciplinary teams to develop social impact business models and implementation strategies for real global ventures. This course prepares students to identify complex, impact problems and develop viable, sustainable solutions in any setting. 

EDSGN 452: Projects in Humanitarian Engineering 

2 credits

Students undertake technology-based social entrepreneurial ventures in cooperation with partnering stakeholder organizations. Students work in cross-functional teams on the various design, testing, and commercialization/implementation aspects of their ventures. The course offers multi-disciplinary, real-world integrated research and design experience, from problem formulation through assessment of performance. This course prepares students to develop technology-based products and services that are feasible, viable, and desirable in any context. This course is taken concurrently with EDSGN 453: Design for Developing Communities.

EDSGN 453: Design for Developing Communities 

1 credit

The Design for Developing Communities course grounds students in the basics of international development, human-centered design, systems thinking, experimental design, travel and fieldwork, and related issues for technology-based social ventures in developing communities.  Students will also plan for their HESE Field Experience. This course prepares students to consider the holistic context of a product or service’s ecosystem to better understand the impact of a solution. 

EDSGN 454: HESE Field Experience 

0.5 credits; pre-requisites: EDSGN 452 and EDSGN 453 

The HESE Field Experience is a hands-on integrated learning, research, and entrepreneurial engagement experience for students that have been working on HESE ventures. Students travel to project site(s) for at least three weeks in the Maymester to conduct field-testing of their technologies, test their preliminary business models, gather data for their research projects, etc. They work very closely with community members and various partnering agencies during that time. The partnering agencies range from community members to local schools, non-profits, community-based organizations, local businesses, international companies, and governmental and international agencies. Students may elect to continue this experience or add an international internship for all or part of the summer in discussion with the program director. This course prepares students to collaborate in diverse contextspracticing collaborative development. 

ENGR 455: HESE Reflection and Research Dissemination 

3 credits; pre-requisites: EDSGN 454 

This course provides students with an opportunity to reflect and build upon their field experiences to advance their HESE venture and their understanding of the co-development process. There are three intertwined tracks in this course. One social entrepreneurship track explores the ethical intricacies of conducting research and advancing entrepreneurial ventures in developing communities. The grassroots diplomacy track delves into the complicated and delicate challenges of working in developing communities in a harmonious and effective manner.  The research dissemination track provides students with just-in-time information and skill-sets necessary for developing research manuscripts based on the IRB-approved research study for which they gather data during the summer field experience. This course prepares students to apply their HESE experiences to the wide variety of contexts they will encounter on their journey after Penn State. 


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The School of Engineering Design and Innovation delivers effective engineering education and unrivaled research opportunities through active, collaborative, project-based, and professionally oriented classroom experiences. The school 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 and Innovation

213 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2952