Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Four Michigan Tech Teams Take Home Awards from the Central Michigan University New Venture Competition

By Amy Karagiannakis

Six undergraduate student teams from Michigan Technological University traveled to Central Michigan University (CMU) to compete in the eighth annual New Venture Competition held Friday, April 13. The event was co-sponsored by Michigan Tech’s Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (ICE). Student teams from Michigan Tech and CMU presented business plans and pitches to panels of experienced entrepreneurs. Four of Michigan Tech’s six competing teams took home cash and in-kind awards.

Weber presenting for Makerhub to a panel of entrepreneurs
Weber presenting for Makerhub to a panel of entrepreneurs

Team Makerhub led by Cedric Kennedy (business administration and management ’16) and Adam Weber (computer network and system administration) won the Korson Family Highest Growth Potential award and $10,000. Makerhub crowdsources 3-D printers in order to fulfill the need for 3-D printed parts. When asked what’s next for Makerhub, Weber shared, “Right now, Makerhub is being tested in a private beta with a large handful of users. The prize money will be used to accelerate the development process and release it to the general public very soon.”

Weber (left) and Kennedy (right) with award check
Weber (left) and Kennedy (right) with award check

 

Team Fitstop took first place in the pitch competition and was awarded $1,000. Fitstop founders, Gabe Giddings (computer science) and Jacob Carley (electrical engineering), participated in Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site Program in January. Directed by Mary Raber, assistant dean of Pavlis Honors College, I-Corps is a team-based program structure that was developed through a partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The workshop provides an introduction to the Lean Start-up business development methodology, which focuses on getting out of the lab and using the tools of customer discovery and the business model canvas to evaluate the commercial potential of innovative technologies. Jim Baker, executive director of innovation and industry engagement at Michigan Tech served as mentor for Fitstop’s participation in the competition. “Gabe and Jake have worked hard on engagement with customers, including gym owners and travelers seeking a better workout experience on the road. Understanding the needs of both customer segments has been very helpful in presenting a compelling value proposition that translates into a very effective pitch, as shown by this award,” noted Baker.

Giddings presenting for Fitstop in the pitch competition
Giddings presenting for Fitstop in the pitch competition

 

The core themes of CMU’s New Venture Competition are the hands-on approach to proving that a product works and providing a business model that demonstrates an understanding of concepts that attract investors and customers. Pavlis Honors College student Kyle Ludwig won the $250 Audience Choice Award in the pitch component of the competition for his startup Looma. In addition, Looma was also awarded $1,500 in legal assistance from Foster Swift. Ludwig also participated in Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site Workshop and found it to be very helpful in developing Looma’s business plan. “The I-Corp Site Program at Michigan Tech helped me realize the direction for my business by introducing me to processes which inspire product development around the customer,” shared Ludwig.

Ludwig wins Audience Choice pitch award
Ludwig wins Audience Choice pitch award

 

Michigan Tech’s Hinge was awarded second runner up in the pitch component of the competition and $250. Isaiah Pfund (mechanical engineering), Jack Horrigan (electrical engineering), and Tanner Sheahan (chemical engineering), of Hinge, participated in the Michigan Tech Consumer Products Challenge last January and are working on a self-sanitizing toilet as well as other consumer and industrial product ideas. Horrigan and Pfund were also winners of best elevator pitch at the Bob Mark competition last fall.

From left to right, Sheahan, Pfund, Baker (mentor), and Horrigan accept award check
From left to right, Sheahan, Pfund, Baker (mentor), and Horrigan accept award check

 

This is the eighth year of the New Venture competition and the seventh year of Michigan Tech’s partnership with CMU. Last year, Michigan Tech students Nick Dubiel and Morgan Crocker won Best Overall Venture, which came with $30,000 and a year of mentoring support from Blue Water Angels in Midland for their product The Metaloid.

Michigan Tech’s Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (ICE) within the Pavlis Honors College continues to be an excellent resource for students looking to start their own business or bring new ideas and concepts to the next stage of development. The mission of the center is to harness the potential of the Michigan Tech campus community to innovate, develop, and implement ideas and inventions by building and maintaining a strong and integrated ecosystem with a cohesive set of entrepreneurial and innovation resources to enable success. Students interested in innovating, developing, and implementing their ideas and inventions are encouraged to visit the Pavlis Honors College (M&M 722) to learn more about ICE and the resources available to them. A schedule of upcoming student innovator and entrepreneur competitions, in order of registration deadlines, can be found on our website.


Fostering an Innovation and Entrepreneurial Mindset at Tech

By Amy Karagiannakis

Michigan Tech has been awarded the VentureWell Faculty Grant in the amount of $22,800 for the proposal “Building a Curriculum that Fosters an Innovation & Entrepreneurial (I&E) Mindset for our First-year Students.” The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship teamed up with Engineering Fundamentals and the School of Business and Economics (SBE) to develop a first-year curriculum that infuses design thinking methodology into Tech’s first-year engineering and business courses.

All engineering students at Tech are required to complete ENG1102, Engineering Modeling and Design in their first year and SBE offers BUS1100, Introduction to Business to their first-year students. Last Fall semester, working off a previously awarded grant, PIs Mary Raber, Mary Fraley, Brett Hamlin, and Amber Kemppainen piloted incorporating the design-thinking process into two sections of ENG1102. Concurrently, the team also worked with Jon Leinonen to incorporate a similar set of design-thinking modules in three sections of BUS1100.  Students in these courses were ultimately required to form teams and develop innovative solutions for a self-identified problem. Prior to being given a designated challenge however, students were introduced to design thinking methodology through a series of interactive workshops and activities. With the knowledge and concepts they learned, they could apply the phases of empathy, define, ideation, prototype, and test to developing solutions to their prescribed team challenges.

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Mary Fraley, Lecturer for Engineering Fundamentals reflected, “We learned in the pilot that including design thinking in a first-year engineering course was an effective way to introduce students to an entrepreneurial mindset. Through the development of an innovative product, students not only improved their critical thinking skills, but also developed an understanding of incorporating customer needs into their design. We look forward to refining this approach in the future.”

The new grant will allow Tech’s PIs to expand upon the Fall pilot, affording business and engineering students the opportunity to work together on innovative solutions to problems they identify. The goal is to refine the curriculum based on lessons learned from last Fall hoping to eventually introduce a permanent curricular offering. The new grant money will also enable Tech to train additional faculty in the design thinking and lean startup methodology through workshops facilitated by those who have completed Stanford’s Teaching and Learning Studio training, as well as Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad training. The team also plans to incorporate Tech’s new makerspace, the Alley, for prototyping and testing student design projects.

venturewellgrant1

Jon Leinonen, lecturer in the School of Business and Economics highlights the interdisciplinary teamwork that the VentureWell project provides as a point of distinction for Michigan Tech’s students, saying, “In this setting, students learn to apply business principles in a technical environment. This provides a foundation for more creative, feasible and rewarding outcomes when graduates step into industry.”Venturewell2

This collaborative project is lead by a team of faculty from the Innovative Center for Entrepreneurship, the Engineering Fundamentals Department and the School of Business. Mary Raber has experience with developing educational programming around Design Thinking, Lean Start-up and makerspaces. Mary Fraley, Brett Hamlin and Amber Kemppainen are instructors in the first-year engineering program and Jon Leinonen is a business instructor and I&E mentor. Together, this team will lead the efforts to continue to integrate design thinking and lean startup concepts into the core engineering fundamentals and business courses.

Mary Raber, co-director of the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and Assistant Dean of the Pavlis Honors College stated, “This grant from VentureWell will allow us to build upon the pilot conducted in Fall 2017 that introduced design thinking into first-year engineering and business courses.  Our goal is to give these students an opportunity to begin developing an innovation and entrepreneurial mindset while working together to create innovative solutions to problems of interest.”

 


Design Thinking and Makerspaces

By Mary Raber

If you’ve been hanging out around the Pavlis Honors College you’ve probably heard talk about Design Thinking and Makerspaces. And maybe you’re wondering, what are these things and why are they important?

As stated by Tom & David Kelley, co-founders of the product innovation company IDEO and authors of Creative Confidence, “Most people are born creative. As children, we revel in imaginary play, ask outlandish questions, draw blobs and call them dinosaurs. But over time, because of socialization and formal education, a lot of us start to stifle those impulses. We learn to be warier of judgment, more cautious, more analytical. The world seems to divide into “creatives” and “non-creatives,” and too many people consciously or unconsciously resign themselves to the latter category.”

Last fall, the Pavlis Honors College announced the creation of a new Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (ICE), and as part of our mission we want to help Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff reclaim their “creative confidence.” Design thinking and makerspaces are two great tools that can help.

“Design Thinking is defined as a methodology and a mindset that draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity,” explains IDEO CEO, Tim Brown.

empathize

 

 

It is an iterative process that starts with Empathy…understanding the needs and challenges of the people who might use the innovative ideas you are developing. By getting out and talking to people, you can learn a lot about their needs and challenges which can help ensure that you are focusing on the right problem. Then through ideation processes such as brainstorming, new ideas are generated. Simple prototypes of these ideas can be created with fast and inexpensive methods such as sketching, role playing, or building models using materials like post-it notes and pipe cleaners. These simple prototypes can then be used to gain valuable feedback by testing a physical model of your idea with prospective users. This allows you to determine whether you’re on the right track before you’ve invested too much time or money, or if you need to go back to a previous step to explore your idea further.

We now have a team of faculty and students (our University Innovation Fellows) who are trained in the design thinking process and are available to help others develop design-thinking skills through facilitated workshops and class sessions. The team has already been working hard to help infuse this process across campus and into the community.

You’ve probably also heard about our new makerspace, The Alley. Makerspaces are popping up all over the world and there are an estimated 400 makerspaces in the US alone. They are intended to be creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, collaborative, invent, tinker and learn using a variety of tools and materials. By all accounts, they are not just spaces, they are communities of people from all disciplines and backgrounds who enjoy making things. They encompass making in all forms, whether building with power tools, creating 3D printed prototypes, experimenting with cooking, or creating through more traditional art forms like sewing and painting.

Over the past year, a diverse team of students, faculty and staff have worked to convert the old bowling alley in the basement of the MUB to a really cool collaborative work space where members of the Michigan Tech community can bring their ideas to life.

In September, representatives of Milwaukee Tool came to campus to help facilitate a workbench building event. Milwaukee Tool is a strong supporter of The Alley and helped get the makerspace off the ground with a generous donation of tools. The Alley officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on October 25th, 2016.

The Alley is a student-led makerspace, with a team of Maker Coaches (student, faculty and staff volunteers) who staff the space, maintain the tools & equipment, train new users, and help to make it a safe place to work. It is open to the Michigan Tech community on Monday-Thursday from 3:00-9:00pm. For more info on the space, or how to get involved as a volunteer Maker Coach, check out The Alley’s website or Facebook page.

makerspace