The National Science Foundation awarded NYU Tandon a $500,000 grant to go toward a summer program focusing on preparing female students for a career in the startup world.
The money will go to the school’s Convergence of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, which will hold a summer program for students (of both sexes, but women are encouraged to apply) that will focus on thinking of a product and building the infrastructure needed to start a company around it. The students, who will be split into founder pairs, will have the help and mentorship from faculty at the university over the summer.
“Not every student needs to create their own startup but they should all go through the process and know the steps involved,” explained Kurt Becker, the Vice Dean for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the school. “They should be exposed to this ecosystem.”
According to Becker, 40 percent of the engineering school’s undergraduates are women, but only 10 percent of founders are. The program is open to both men and women, but the solicitations for student participation in it were geared toward female students. 30 students will participate and the project begins July 17. The money, which will last for five years, will go to stipends for the students, to allow them to live in New York for a summer.
We asked Becker why it’s important students be prepared with startup-type experience and he said it’s because more and more traditional companies are running in the same way startups do: with small teams working on projects.
“In the past, you were a mechanical engineer or an electrical, the main thing was you had a solid foundation,” explained Becker. “You didn’t have to worry about interdisciplinary skills or soft skills, having to communicate. Once people started to work at IBM at Northrop Grummon they would stay for life. Most of the work at big companies now is done in teams, and you need to be able to communicate. Computer scientists need to be able to communicate to nontechnical people and take a product from ideation to final product. So the jobs of engineers has changed dramatically in the last 10-15 years.”