Skip to Main Content
You are in the main content
Cover Photo Image

Innovation Exchange


San Francisco, CA, USA

Program Description

The Innovation Exchange is a four week, design thinking course offered from mid-May to mid-June that focuses on technology innovation, design thinking, and entrepreneurship. The course, taught by engineering and design faculty is a highly collaborative, multidisciplinary environment where students will design, develop, and construct innovative technologies that address self-identified technology needs.

Through the course, students will be introduced to the philosophical foundations and applied approaches of the practice of design and entrepreneurship in order to develop a toolbox of design skills, terminology, and technical understanding necessary to create innovative designs targeting pertinent issues. Students will meet researchers, designers, and entrepreneurs who have transitioned ideas into marketable companies in order to expose them first hand to how design, entrepreneurship, and technology must come together to create innovations that meet real needs. Students will work in a highly collaborative, multidisciplinary environment to design, develop, and construct innovative technologies of their own in self-identified topic areas that address real needs. At the conclusion of the course, students will pitch their designs for feedback hopefully providing the catalyst for students to take their ideas to the next level.

Location Description

Innovation Exchange involves three phases.

During the first phase of this course, students are based at James Madison University (JMU) located in Harrisonburg, Virginia—the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. At JMU, students work together to learn about design thinking and develop their own ideas for technology innovations.

The second phase of the course occurs in the San Francisco Bay Area embedding students in the start-up, entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley. Students visit a variety of technology start-up organizations and established innovation centers to learn from researchers, designers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and leaders from inside the industry.

The final phase brings students back to the Shenandoah Valley to work together in multidisciplinary teams to develop and pitch their technology innovations for feedback and advice on how to take their ideas to the next level.


Robert Nagel | | Engineering
Audrey Barnes | | Industrial Design, Art, Design & Art History


Students will stay in a hotel while in the San Francisco Bay Area. Likely the hotel will be the Best Western Plus Riviera, Menlo Park, California. The hotel is on El Camino Real which provides easy access for travel via van to the broader Bay area. The hotel is within walking distance to downtown Palo Alto, Stanford campus, Stanford mall, and a CalTrain station. Being within walking distance of Palo Alto and Stanford will allow students to find a variety of dining options for the evening meals. Being within walking distance of CalTrain will allow the students to safely navigate to and from San Francisco and the San Francisco International Airport.

During the Harrisonburg portion of the course, students will be required to find their own local housing accommodations.

While in California, stipends will be provided to students. Stipends are for use on lunches when traveling with the group to site visits or for evening meals. Stipends will be provided each morning during the daily debrief.

Additional Items to Consider

This program is targeted towards junior and senior Engineering and Industrial Design students, however, is open to all majors.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.5

Junior or Senior standing

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Professional bio-sketch
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU and first semester transfer students.

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

apply now

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


ENGR 498: Advanced Topics in Engineering (3 credits)

INDU 492: Topics in Industrial Design (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.