As students hurled paper planes and cardboard disks through the air outside the Wehner Building at Texas A&M University, who would have guessed that the competition in progress had less to do with aerodynamics than business?
For this unusual lesson at Mays Business School, Management Clinical Associate Professor Richard Lester tasked the students in his graduate-level foundations of entrepreneurship class with the team creation of an aircraft that met specific criteria: it must use the same number of sheets of paper as team members, and carry $1 in coins. Each team decided the weight of the paper, design of the craft, and the combination of coins to equal $1.
Once the prototypes were developed, each team delivered a three-minute pitch describing the reasons their aircraft would fly the farthest and remain aloft the longest. After the pitches, students made predictions about which aircraft would make good on its claims and soar to superiority above the others.
When it came down to the actual fly-off, teams received points toward winning the competition for not only the performance of their aircraft, but also the number of votes they received from classmates predicting their success. The lesson had several angles related to entrepreneurship, said Lester: creativity and innovation, role of presentation for an unproven design, investment decision making for new ventures, personal selling, and effective implementation.
Due to the elevated nature of the lesson, it’s sure to be one that students will remember.