When Future Engineers Meet Entrepreneurship

2021-04-16

How to properly dispose of used cooking oil? Recently, Re:oil, a green startup comprised of 12 undergraduates from Xiamen University Malaysia (XMUM), gave the perfect answer to this question. By collecting used cooking oil from small eateries across Malaysia and selling it to eco-friendly factories, they have achieved profitable growth while meeting sustainable targets.

This startup is one of the entrepreneurial projects surged from Energy Innovation Laboratory (EGE 403), a core course for XMUM New Energy Science and Engineering Programme. It aims to stimulate studentsinterest in innovation and entrepreneurship, encouraging them to develop energy- and environmental-related business using their professional knowledge.

From brainstorming to business planning and marketing, the 125 students  of the course were divided into groups of 10-12 pax each to complete their respective projects during the 5-week short semester.

We want to provide a platform for our students to showcase their engineering skills in practical applications,” says Dr. Braedan Foo, the course lecturer. “Some teams really came out with a creative and sustainable business model within the tight schedule.

Re:oil” is one of the most successful business ideas from the students. According to the Re:oil team leader, Lan Song Yi, used cooking oil in Malaysian households is often discharged into sewers, causing water pollution and soil contamination. Hence, the team wants to raise awareness among Malaysians and encourage them to recycle the used cooking oil and processed it into biofuel products such as soaps and candles.

Re:oil Members with the Used Oil They Collected

As COVID-19 remains rampant in Malaysia, many families are cooking more often, exacerbating the problem of how to dealing with the used oil, Lan Song Yi added. “We realized that this is a new business opportunity.”

Due to the impact of COVID-19, this practical-oriented course has to be conducted online, which posed unprecedented challenges for the lecturers.

To cope with the new challenges, lecturers have made necessary revisions to the course structure. From a small scaled energy experimental designto an entrepreneurial project consists of original ideas, technologies, products or business model, the course has evolved into an interdisciplinary platform for engineering students, allowing them to gain various soft skills before entering the job market.

We want the students to be more versatile after they graduate. The soft-skills learned in this journey can help them succeed in their future career developments, Dr. Braedan Foo commented. 

Throughout this course, our students had become more mature and responsible, because they have to deal with real customers who will scold and criticize their product or services. This is something they never experienced before in conventional academic group activities.

To help students gain more business knowledge, the course also invited lecturers from XMUM Journalism Programme, MBA Center and the School of Economics and Management to give workshops on Product Branding and Marketing, How to Prepare a Business Plan as well as financial management and accounting.

Contributed by Xiang Siting, Luo Minxi, Huang Sihan

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