A new course is coming to Ball State in the spring 2022 semester that will merge the Department of Computer Science and Entrepreneurship Center together. The course, Digitizing Muncie, is focused on bringing computer science and entrepreneurship students together to form software-based startup companies.
As they often collaborated on events in the past, Krystal Geyer, assistant director of the Entrepreneurship Center, and Huseyin Ergin, assistant professor of computer science, will introduce their collaborative course next semester.
“This kind of came out of a mutual interest in entrepreneurship and getting our students to develop more technologically advanced businesses,” Geyer said.
Ergin said many students who graduate and work for a large tech company like Facebook or Amazon often begin looking for new challenges about five years after they start working, leading many to begin building their own startup companies — a key reason he and Geyer felt this partnership was important.
Geyer and Ergin’s partnership eventually evolved into talks of working exclusively with each other in the creation of the course. This year, an opportunity to finish the project arose in the form of a $50,000 award from Elevate Ventures, an Indianapolis-based entrepreneurship company, which Geyer had already formed a strong connection with through the university relations team.
Geyer ultimately applied for the award, and Ball State was presented with the grant Aug. 11, along with the Indiana Institute of Technology in Fort Wayne, the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and the University of Evansville.
“We have been working on this concept for about three years, so this was an opportunity to kind of put the dollars behind it and really bring what we’ve been brainstorming on to fruition,” Geyer said.
Their hard work will pay off when they introduce their course, which will be open to juniors and seniors of all departments with the permission of Ergin and Geyer — the course’s co-professors.
“The basis is that my students come to the table with a lot of ideas but not the technical skills to build them,” Geyer said. “[Ergin’s] students have skills but are typically designing ideas for others and not necessarily building their own.”
Although they have yet to begin marketing the course, Ergin and Geyer said they have seen some enthusiasm among students within their respective departments.
“I have introduced it in our CS [computer science] welcome event … and my classes and I saw a lot of interest among CS students,” Ergin said.
The course will take students through every step of the process of forming a software-based startup company, from the idea phase to establishing the business and acquiring users.
Geyer often tells students they should begin to think about being entrepreneurs while in college since they have less to lose with the backup plan of a degree and the safety net college provides. She added many companies people are familiar with today, such as Dropbox and Facebook, were founded by college students.
“It’s a nice place to start with an idea, with a less risky environment,” Ergin said. “They’re free to experiment.”
Besides helping students experiment with and build their own companies, Ergin and Geyer also hope many students will ultimately stay in or near Muncie after they graduate so they can help develop and grow its tech sector.
“That’s why I named it ‘Digitizing Muncie,’” said Ergin. “It’s going to be affecting Muncie.”
Geyer said she hopes students will develop an idea, validate it with a userbase and eventually launch companies after college that will hopefully stay in the area.
“We’re ambitious,” Geyer said. “It sounds ambitious, and it really is ambitious what we’re trying to do, but … it’s absolutely not unheard of.”