[ASHESI] Of 3D Printers, design thinking and big ambitions for entrepreneurship at Ashesi

Inside the McNulty Foundation Design Lab, there is a keen buzz of excitement. Students are huddled around Ashesi’s new 3D printers, watching as it prints out miniature models of the University logo. For most of the students in the room, it is the first time they have seen a 3D printer in action, and they are fascinated by it. For student Benedict Quartey ’18, however, Ashesi’s printer presents opportunities for him to manufacture parts for his own miniature 3D printer that would make it work better.

“We are looking at ways in which we can use this 3D printer to create smaller 3D printers that we can use for more work,” he says. “We are very grateful for this.”

With the launch of Ashesi’s new Engineering programme, the entire university community is feeling a palpable bump in efforts to make design thinking, innovation and hands-on learning a core of classroom experience. The University’s curriculum has been remodeled, with new classes being introduced that will have all students starting and maintaining businesses throughout their four-year stay on campus.

[Students working on a design thinking process for a food service that will meet new needs.]

“We want more of our graduates starting businesses, because the ones who have are doing really well,” says Dr. Sena Agyepong, who led curriculum development for a new class called Foundations of Design and Entrepreneurship, with former lecturer Dela Kumahor. The class, started this year, will be taken by all freshmen at Ashesi, and will teach students foundational skills in problem solving, critical thinking and starting businesses.

“Because of our liberal arts model, we realised that it would be easy to have students taking common classes in their early years at Ashesi. Having student take entrepreneurship classes early gives them the opportunity to think through ways in which they can apply these skills to different things around them here on campus. Ultimately a graduate who is good at starting new projects and creating solutions, is also a strong asset for existing organisations looking to grow and launch new products.”

[Students designed and built solutions for student hangout spaces on campus earlier this year.]

In 2007, four Ashesi alumni, Henry Sampson, Claud Hutchful, Charles Hansen-Quao and Derrydean Dadzie, just out of school, started software company DreamOval Limited in an Ashesi computer lab. The company now employs some 30 people, and in 2015, was awarded Software Company of The Year, with CEO Derrydean being named Young ICT Entrepreneur of the year. It is this kind of ambition and success that Ashesi’s professors are looking to create more of. For Dr. Gordon Adomdza, who is leading efforts to build up Ashesi’s Design Lab, it would require a university-wide effort.

“We are looking forward to helping everyone on campus – from students to faculty to staff – to use design-thinking for creative problem solving,” he explains. “We want to help people with already existing projects, who have a passion for solving problems, to explore design thinking as a better approach to creating lasting, usable solutions. We want to support projects that have both local and international interest, and eventually see Ashesi becoming a thought leader on design thinking in Ghana and Africa.”


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