By Emily Velasco and Melanie Johnson
Perhaps inspired by charismatic titans of industry like Tesla Motors’ founder Elon Musk or Apple’s iconic Steve Jobs, a new generation of students is looking to make its mark on the world through innovation and entrepreneurship.
Cal Poly Pomona, seeking to encourage them, has sponsored a number of programs and events that allow students to explore their inventive talents. Donors like Finance Professor Pawan Tomkoria, who donated $50,000 to the Bronco Startup Challenge, have sweetened the pot with prize money. Students have responded by developing an array of innovative products. Here are some of the standouts:
Armando Cordero and Terrell Bolden had a specific type of person in mind when they came up with the idea for an innovative electric scooter. Cordero, who is majoring in manufacturing engineering, and Bolden, who is majoring in management and human resources, worked through an 8-week accelerator program run by the iLab and set out to design and manufacture a scooter for whom they dubbed the “lastmile commuter.” It’s someone who travels by train, bus or car but still must walk one last mile to get to their final destination.
B2C, as they have named their partnership, created a foldable scooter powered by miniature drone motors that travels up to 15 mph, weighs 15 pounds and fits into a backpack, making that final mile less draining physically and much quicker to navigate.
The students are securing a patent for their design and say they plan to continue refining their product.
Driven by a desire to educate people about the problem of water scarcity and give them an easy way to conserve, a team of students developed a raindrop-shaped device that hangs in the shower and provides a simple visual cue for keeping showers short. The group created Lono Drop Education in the ESTEME (Education in STEM Entrepreneurship) Program, which is now part of the Student Innovation Idea Lab (iLab).
To activate the device, users wave their hand underneath it at the beginning of their shower. It starts by glowing green and gradually changes colors to indicate how much time has elapsed. When the drop flashes red, it’s time to get out and towel off.
The interdisciplinary endeavor consisted of Rushi Shah, Peter Hoang, Nick Verity, Ahmad Alhayek, Stavro Victor, Juso Ahmetspahic, Sherry Yu, Terrell Bolden and Nilesh Haile from the colleges of engineering, business administration and hospitality management.
The students estimate their device could help an individual conserve 5,000 gallons of water each year. They sold 100 units at $30 apiece before they wrapped up their project.
They came together with an idea to rock the music industry. When recent graduate Jesse Smith (’16, master’s in economics) and his business partner Theresa Bastian, a Cal State Fullerton business student, were done, the duo had designed a small device to make it easier for future rock stars to access a multitude of sounds as they play.
Often when musicians play the electric guitar, they are making use of what are called effects pedals — electronic devices that change the tone of the guitar when activated by the guitarist’s foot. Guitarists will sometimes use many pedals to create sounds as they play.
Smith and Bastian created the Soundsmith, a small module that combines the features of a multitude of effects pedals into a device that is controlled by hand instead of by foot. The idea behind the Soundsmith is to provide easier access to sounds so that musicians can focus on their creativity.
They earned first place at the fifth annual Bronco Startup Challenge, a Shark Tanklike event in May.
SMART PARKING LOTS
Nearly everyone in Southern California, and especially those who commute to a college campus, knows the pain of trying to find a parking spot on a busy day.
Rueben Orihuela, a computer science student; Kayla McGuinness, a civil engineering student; and Isabelle Pfander, a biotechnology student, decided to tackle that problem and came up with a modern solution when they participated in CPP Shark Tank, a new CSU-sponsored program that cultivates innovation among STEM freshmen.
In their system, each parking spot is equipped with a wireless sensor that communicates with a central server, indicating whether a car is parked there. A motorist using a mobile app connected to the system will be shown the locations of open parking spots, making parking less frustrating and more efficient.
Students who complete CPP Shark Tank can take their ideas further by continuing on to the CSU Innovation Corps, a program that pits students from all 23 CSU campuses against one another in a competition.
Emily Velasco (’10, communication) and Melanie Johnson (’97, English) are communications specialists in the Office of Public Affairs.