Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) has been incorporated into a number of education disciplines over the last 25 years or so but has not been broadly utilized in physics. At the same time, employers have indicated that while physics graduates are valuable, they lack some of the key skills and abilities that would greatly improve their performance in the workplace and are provided by I&E education. The PIPELINE project was an eventual outcome of a meeting of I&E-minded individuals who participated in an invited session at the 2012 APS March Meeting in Boston intended to introduce I&E to the physics community. Noting the great potential value of physics combined with I&E education—Physics Innovation and Entrepreneurship (PIE)—these individuals identified a number of steps to help transform physics education:
- Publishing articles in Physics Today and APS News on PIE to introduce and promote PIE
- Building a partnership with VentureWell, the leading organization in innovation and entrepreneurship education in science and technology
- Holding a workshop on PIE education (held June 2014 in College Park, Maryland)
- Incorporating a PIE workshop into the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT)/APS Department Chairs Conference (held June 2018 at the American Center for Physics)
- Offering special sessions at APS meetings, which were held at March and April meetings through 2019
- Creating communication structures to build a community of practice
- Submitting a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation to provide the resources to create PIE materials, research student and faculty attitudes and experiences in I&E education, and create a network that would become a community of practice and practitioners of PIE
The last of these elements resulted in the creation of PIPELINE. The project succeeded in accomplishing its goals, including creation of a website, a newsletter, a library of implementation methods, site visits to campuses across the country, numerous sessions at APS and AAPT meetings, and participation in and presentations at VentureWell’s OPEN conferences.
PIPELINE also benefited from other efforts aimed at transforming undergraduate education happening in the physics community. The most significant of these was the Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs (J-TUPP), which studied and published the Phys21 report on the demands and expectations of physics programs for career success in the 21st century. The educational elements developed in PIPELINE all contribute to, and are in support of, Phys21 recommendations.