Lehigh University’s LaunchBayC Program Immerses Students in Innovation
By Colin McEvoy on July 31, 2017
Michelle Zhong entered Lehigh University’s LaunchBayC program with a lofty goal: she wanted to address the gender gap in the engineering profession.
So the 19-year-old sophomore designed Loop, a bracelet that teaches beginner computer programming. The bracelet connects to an app, which allows the user to upload information to the bracelet and understand the coding involved.
“Girls don’t want to be engineers because they think it’s nerdy or a ‘guy thing,’” said Zhong, originally from Shanghai, who is majoring in computer science and engineering at Lehigh University. “I’m trying to make a smart bracelet that’s not only functional, but also fashionable, so they’ll actually want to wear it.”
Zhong is one of 15 students who participated in this year’s LaunchBayC Student Idea Accelerator, a competitive and selective, full-time, eight-week summer program open to all Lehigh 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, according to Chris Kauzmann, programs manager at Lehigh’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation.
“This years LaunchBayC cohort was a diverse group of students who applied our process to advance their ideas ranging from social non profits to consumer electronics,” Kauzmann said. “LaunchBayC students strive to find a problem in the world around them and generate unique solutions as the basis for new ventures.”
The participating students displayed the culmination of their work from throughout the summer during the LaunchBayC Demo Day on July 27, held in Building C2 on the Mountaintop Campus.
Among them was Jordan Inacio, 27, who worked on two projects during his time at LaunchBayC. One was an exact replica of the customized Lehigh University doorknobs that had appeared on certain campus doors since the 1920s, which will now be sold in the campus bookstore.
The other is AlphaMutt, which humanely and automatically trains pets to stay off furniture in a non-obstructive manner. Inspired by Inacio’s desire to stop his own dog from chewing his sofa mattress, the product goes on the bottom of a piece of furniture, detects when a dog is on top of it, then sends a signal to the dog’s collar, which vibrates and emits a noise.
Inacio graduated from Lehigh in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. In addition to participating in LaunchBayC, he is part of Lehigh’s one-year Technical Entrepreneurship master’s program, which helps student entrepreneurs create and commercialize intellectual property through the licensing or launching of a new business.
“There are a lot of great resources for entrepreneurs at Lehigh University and in the Lehigh Valley as a whole,” Inacio said. “LaunchBayC got me access to tons of stuff, lots of resources, connections with people in the industry, and a lot of things that most people don’t think about, but that you need to run a successful business.”
Other projects from this year’s LaunchBayC Demo Day included a dietary supplement to address alcohol-related vitamin deficiency, a new sleep aid, a redesigned version of the classic stud earring, a sexual assault prevention project, and an effort to save honeybees from mites.
LaunchBayC offers multiple tracks to engage a wide variety of students who are passionate about becoming the next generation of creative innovators.
They include the creativity track, which takes students through the creative process regardless of whether they have a product idea; the innovation track, for those in the early stages of designing solutions for a specific challenge; and the entrepreneurship track, for students with advanced projects ready to become business ventures.
Additionally, in June, LaunchBayC students visited San Francisco for a week of immersion in Silicon Valley. They visited [email protected], Lehigh University’s new home on the West Coast, to engage with founders, funders, idea shapers, and other startup influencers.
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