Technical entrepreneurship gets real at Lehigh fair
The proof’s not just in the pudding, but in how it sells. Sixteen newly minted master’s degree recipients showcased their ideas made real at the Master of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship venture fair in the Wilbur Powerhouse building of Lehigh University in Bethlehem.
Two prizes of professional services were awarded after judging rounds. Marlena Sarunac, student and founder of The Chewsy Pet, will receive a one-hour legal consultation, preparation of an operating agreement and help in forming a Pennsylvania limited liability company. Her prize was donated by Lesavoy Butz & Seitz LLC legal services in South Whitehall Township. Isaac Wellish, student and founder of Coclaire Industries, will receive filing of a trademark application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office though Maenner and Associates LLC in Downingtown.
Wellish, 23, of Las Vegas has an undergraduate degree in computer engineering and music technology. His product, Coclaire Industries, helps prevent occupational hearing loss. The compact device clips on a shirt or lapel and also may be used on a car dashboard to monitor sound levels while driving. Wellish’s target markets are employers in the construction and manufacturing sectors and insurance companies.“Insurance costs are high for hearing loss, and, because it’s a silent issue, it often goes unnoticed until it is too late,” he said.
OSHA SAFETY LEVELS
The device uses color to indicate noise levels. Green, yellow, orange and red are coded to increasing exposure levels and are aligned with safety levels set by U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommendations, over a 24-hour period. “The device lets you know how much noise you are exposed to, so you can do something about it,” Wellish said, which could mean using ear plugs or other hearing protection.
BELIEF IN THEIR PRODUCT
Tenacity, a thick skin and a willingness to learn and grow after critiques are among the essential elements entrepreneurs must have to find success, according to Marsha W. Timmerman, a professor of practice in the Master of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship program at Lehigh.
“They learn to think creatively and to make things,” she said. “They need to listen to what people say and adapt, but also believe in what they’re doing.” During the 11-month, 30-credit program, students take classes in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, so the program isn’t just for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM majors. They build a prototype, create marketing and business plans and learn about manufacturing, supply and distribution.
FILLING A VOID
Other projects at the event included a device aimed at limiting smartphone usage and encouraging more outdoor activity, a pet grooming gear and a protective sleeve for guitars to avoid damage during use. The projects were varied and aimed to fill a niche. “That’s what they’re looking for, the place no one is serving,” Timmerman said.
Timmerman said students hail from various undergraduate disciplines. “We’ve had students from finance, English, psychology and biochemistry in the program,” she said. This was the seventh class to complete the program. Twenty-two new students began classes last week.
Randy Cruz of Bethlehem knew about engineering as an industrial systems engineering undergraduate, but he wanted to learn more. The 24-year-old, who was an All-American wrestler at Lehigh, created a product, The Pet Cruz, aimed at helping pet owners control cat and dog hair shedding.
It combines his love of animals with his understanding of product development. A snug fleece jacket with gentle grip pads may be worn by a cat or dog to contain shedding hair. A glove with similar gripping “knobs” may be used to pet, stroke or groom the animal. Another feline product Cruz developed plays on a cat’s natural curiosity and uses an open box lined with brushes to groom and catch loose hair as the cat plays in the box.
HELPING THE WORLD
Keith Martin was the first graduate to receive a product patent as a result of his master’s degree program homework. A 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in material science engineering, Martin received his Master of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship in 2014.
His patent is for fingertip markers for disabled children, originally designed as an occupational therapy tool for stroke victims and those with epilepsy. “I’m taking to Crayola and BiC and some other smaller companies,” Martin, a judge at this year’s event, said of finding a larger market for his invention. “We are helping people make things and solve problems because the world needs problem-solvers,” Timmerman said.