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Lehigh University Students Bring Ideas to Life at LaunchBayC Program

By Colin McEvoy on August 15, 2016

Students demonstrate their projects at the "Demo Day" for LaunchBayC, a 10-week “student idea accelerator” summer program at Lehigh University's Mountaintop Campus.

Students demonstrate their projects at the “Demo Day” for LaunchBayC, a 10-week “student idea accelerator” summer program at Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus.

After volunteering at a nursing home for more than three years, Sasha Rubman came to witness the powerful therapeutic effects music had on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but noticed there was usually just one “blanket form” of music therapy available to them.

She thought there had to be a better way, and thanks to LaunchBayC, she found it.

The LaunchBayC “student idea accelerator” is competitive and selective, full-time, 10-week summer program, open to all Lehigh University students regardless of their major, year, and academic background. Located at Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus, the live-work program allows students to immerse themselves in a culture of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.

“You set your own guidelines and parameters, and make your own list of what you’re going to accomplish in a given week,” said Rubman, 20, a pre-law junior at Lehigh studying political science and philosophy. “Each project is very difficult and very individual, and LaunchBayC gives you the flexibility to make it work. It was a really incredible opportunity.”

Before developing any specific product, Rubman spent her first few weeks in the program studying Alzheimer’s disease, visiting nursing homes, sitting in on music therapy sessions, and focusing on understanding the problem of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sasha Rubman, 20, discusses her project at the LaunchBayC Demo Day.

Sasha Rubman, 20, discusses her project at the LaunchBayC Demo Day.

As a result, she created a customizable music device for patients with foam buttons that, when pressed, emit a song correlating with specific memories. This eases stress-induced agitation that accompanies Alzheimer’s symptoms, and also serves as a personalized platform for communication between the patients and their loved ones.

Rubman was one of 20 students who worked on 12 separate projects through the LaunchBayC program this summer, which culminated with a “Demo Day” presentation of their work on Aug. 11 at the Mountaintop Campus, a former Bethlehem Steel research bay.

Other projects included a plant-based air purifier, a cricket pitching machine, a paint brush cleaning system, a dehydration detector, a car engine swap kit, 3-D printed glasses, a diabetes carb counter, a drone detection device, and many more.

“The Demo Day really showed the breadth of the student’s work, as well as the depth of work they were able to achieve in such a short amount of time,” said Lisa Getzler-Linn, Executive Director of Lehigh University’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation. “When students are immersed in the entrepreneurial experiences, they become deeply engaged, and that allows them to succeed more fully.”

LaunchBayC offered three tracks for students: the creativity track, usually rising sophomores seeking to start the creative process, even if they do not have their own idea; the innovation track, designed for students who have a project or idea and are seeking to take it to the next level; and the entrepreneurship track, typically for seniors or graduate students with advanced projects ready to become ventures.

Chris Kauzmann, innovation programs manager at Lehigh, said like with all Baker programs, the success of LaunchBayC is not measured on the number of products or startups created.

“We measure it based on the culture change and mindset change that happens within those students,” said Kauzmann, a member of LVEDC’s Entrepreneurial Council of the Lehigh Valley. “I can see that it’s happening in all of them in the way they think and the way they’re approaching problems and opportunities. I can see that in them.”

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