The Wood Enterprise Institute at Virginia Tech
Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Experience-Based Learning
The Wood Enterprise Institute (WEI) is a student-run, faculty-supported organization at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia. WEI was created in 2007 to provide students hands-on business learning and experience. This experience is enabled by giving students ownership of a business to design, build, manufacture, and sell products that fulfill a customer need. Students “learn by doing” --- that is, to focus on customer service by ensuring their business can deliver products which are in demand. Students are challenged to solve problems and make decisions that minimize costs and risks. The most important experience gained is that human capacity is the business’s greatest asset. Therefore, students gain a deep understanding that a business can only achieve its maximum potential through a profound respect for all involved in their team.
The Wood Enterprise Institute operates in the Innovation & Design Laboratory and Classroom located at the Brooks Forest Products Center at Virginia Tech. This facility provides 6,000 square feet of dedicated and flexible workspace for product design, production, and supporting business operations. An additional 4,000 square feet of shared space is located adjacent to the Innovation & Design Lab, houses the Brooks Center’s woodshop and machine shop areas. With advice from faculty and professional mentors, students design, make and sell products to customers while managing their business’s administrative functions and cash flow. Within this framework, students are able to take ownership of their learning experience by managing a real business.
Students focus on creating and making innovative products that are more “sustainable” while addressing the aesthetic and functional needs of their customers. Beginning in September of each year, students do their market research to find a product that meets a unique customer need. They must also do some serious homework to make sure the product can be delivered at a cost that can sustain their business.
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