Ideas Challenge courses are a network of experiential courses being developed at UWM to integrate entrepreneurial thinking into the existing curriculum. Rather than create new courses, instructors are working together to adapt existing courses to strengthen themes of creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Currently, Ideas Challenge courses are offered in engineering, business, the arts, and science disciplines. These courses are taught by some of UWM’s most innovative instructors – Ideas Challenge Fellows – who are helping transform the educational experience for UWM students. Check out course offerings below:  
  • Design Thinking
    Description: Design Thinking teaches students how to navigate ambiguity, learn from otheres, synthesize information, and experiment rapidly between concrete and the abstract. Students will learn how to build and craft prototypes as well as communicate deliberately through the design process and work.

    Instructors: Ilya Avdeev, Ph.D.,is the founding director of the Advanced Manufacturing Design Laboratory, co-founder of the Student Startup Challenge, Co-PI of the Milwaukee I-Corps Program, and Kellner Entrepreneurship Fellow.

    • ME-890:Advanced Topics in Mech. Eng.
    For more information, check out the course’s flyer.
    Product Realization
    Description: Product Realization courses teach students how to design, test, and produce prototypes for companies that offer mentorship and funding. Industries like Aurora Healthcare, Eaton Corporation, and Biz-starts, are just some of the local industries that have participated in the course.

    Instructors: Ilya Avdeev, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Nathaniel Stern, Ph.D., associate professor of art and design and head of the digital studio practice in the Peck School of the Arts, collaborate and oversee the 15-week process. Some of the projects have included eye-tracking software, wheelchair design, wave energy collectors, and personal lighting devices for roadside emergencies.

    • ART-405
    • COMPSCI-678
    • IND ENG-405
    • MECH ENG-405
    For more information, visit:
    Performing Communities
    Description: Performing Communities explores the development of communities through cultural and performing practices by creating community-based work in the arts. This course teaches students how to collaborate with community partners in order to identify social change goals and learn skills to facilitate change.

    Instructor: Anne Basting, Ph.D., is professor of theater and artist in residence program coordinator in the Peck School of the Arts. She is an educator, scholar, and theater artist whose work over the last 15 years has focused on encouraging community engagement, intergenerational connections, and enriching the lives of elders through long-term care embedded with cognitive art projects.

    • THEATRE-320
    Design & Visual Communication
    Description: Design and Visual Communication focuses on the creative process through an entrepreneurial, professional, and cross-disciplinary practice in design and related fields. The curriculum includes coursework in strategy and design process, design methodologies and research, portfolio development, web and multimedia design, and design entrepreneurship.

    Instructors: Kim Beckmann, co-area head and associate professor of design and visual communication, and Adream Blair, lecturer of design and visual communication, are instructors of the course, leading students through the process of creative communication.

    • ART-422
    For more information, visit:
    Social Entrepreneurship
    Description:This course provides an in-depth exploration and examination of the concept of social entrepreneurship and how it is being understood, applied, and practiced in the nonprofit sector.

    Instructor: Fredrik Andersson, Ph.D., assistant professor of public and nonprofit administration, focuses on nonprofit management and leadership, social enterprise, and social entrepreneurship to better analyze, comprehend, and ask new questions about the emergence, internal organization, and resource mobilization of new social ventures.

    • NONPROF-750
    Electronics and Sculpture
    Description: This production class focuses on technologies and aesthetics that incorporate electronics, sensors, motors, physical animation, and other devices into contemporary art and design projects. Students learn programming, kinetics, analog and digital input and output, and communication between computers and micro-controllers.

    Instructor: Nathaniel Stern, Ph.D., associate professor of digital studio practice, area head of digital student practice, and co-founder of the UWM Student Startup Challenge, has produced and collaborated on projects ranging from ecological participatory and online interventions, interactive, immersive, and mixed reality environment to prints, sculptures, videos, performances, and hybrid forms.

    • ART-318(undergrad)/418(grad)
    Gizmos & Gadgets
    Description: This course introduces students to the history, depth, and breadth of assistive technology and universal design through a combination of direct instruction and individual exploration.

    Instructor: Michelle Silverman, MS., professor of occupational therapy and coordinator of assistive technology and adaptive design, instructs the course through the use of internet resources, print resources, and guest speakers.

    • OCCTHPY-220
    Business & Entrepreneurship
    Description: Study the creation, growth, or acquisition of business through entrepreneurial efforts. Students develop their own ideas into effective business models and strategies that ultimately lead to increased management skills and positive management succession. Topics include methods of financing, venture capital, leveraged buy-outs, and acquisitions.

    Instructor: Jim Hunter III is the Bostrom Entrepreneur-in-Residence and has taught entrepreneurship courses at the Lubar School of Business since the mid-1990s. He is the president of three companies, CFO of one company, vice president of four companies, and director of nine companies.

    • BUS ADM-447
    Description: This course provides students with the skills and knowledge to identify potential business ideas centered on information while developing business plans to secure funding.

    Instructor: Shana Ponelis, Ph.D., assistant professor of Information Studies and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and Association for Information Systems, focuses on empowering people to make informed decisions concerning themselves, their organization and their society as a whole.

    • INFOST-691
    Innovation & Commercialization
    Description: Students focus on the basics of innovation and commercialization as well as “Lean Launch” methodologies that are used in early stage business formation to help develop specific skills that are useful in engineering and technology ventures.

    Instructor: Brian Thompson (Director, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, Adjunct Instructor in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Lubar School of Business).

    • CIV ENG 691
    • COMPSCI 657
    • ELECENG 490
    • IND ENG 590
    • MATL ENG 690
    • MECH ENG 490

    Questions? Visit the Contact Us page for more information.
While taking an undergraduate course, Alex Francis was introduced to a faculty-created device that he believed had commercial potential. Now a doctoral student, Francis is in talks with the Medical College of Wisconsin to test the product and has won additional funding of more than $100,000 for his company, Isopoint Technologies.

Alex Francis

“I was looking for courses I could enroll in where I could apply my ideas. Startup projects keep you thinking, keep you active and motivated.”  -Alex Francis