Year after year, the Lulu eGames attracts the brightest students to compete at NC State’s largest startup competition awarding over $100,000 in startup money. This year over 130 students competed in 5 categories and after two intense rounds of judging, 10 finalist teams were awarded anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000 in startup money.
The diversity of complex challenges being solved by the student-led teams is truly phenomenal. Winning ventures included an anti-anxiety dog crate, a novel spray-on coating that will convert nearly any surface to be self-cleaning, and an orthotic brace that uses electricity to provide cold and hot therapy for injuries to name a few. But despite the diversity in industries represented at the startup competition, there was an obvious common thread among the competitors – 5 out of the 10 winning startups were born out of the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP). In fact, EEP student-led teams earned $28,000 of the $62,000 awarded to student teams.
Dating back to 1993, EEP was originated by Drs. Tom Miller, Troy Nagle, and Clarence Maday as an extension of the NC State University Undergraduate Design Center, which is the umbrella program for senior design projects for the College of Engineering. The genesis for the EEP came out of Miller’s personal experience as a technology entrepreneur, his passion for undergraduate engineering education, and his deep commitment to his students and their futures. Perfectly blending the rigor behind senior design projects and entrepreneurial thinking, the program provides a transformational entrepreneurship education experience for students through its fully-immersive, multi-disciplinary, simulation-like learning environment.
Students that go through the program are challenged and inspired to change the world and radically improve the human condition by creating noble solutions to complex problems. This transformative entrepreneurial experience is fueled by course modules in entrepreneurship, new product development, product design, customer validation and discovery, professional writing, business plan development, financial modeling, and much more. In addition, there is mentorship provided both by faculty, including Dr. Seth Hollar, Beryl Pittman and Marshall Brain, and industry mentors from Plexus. This year alone, 100 engineering students presented business plans for 20 new businesses. Due to COVID-19 disruptions, the student-led teams presented their final presentations via Zoom to a virtual audience of nearly 200 participants.
EEP’s immersive and hands-on approach has served as an entrepreneurship launchpad for many of its graduates. It is common to find EEP students working at NC State Entrepreneurship’s Prototyping space and participating in entrepreneurship competitions such as the Lulu eGames, Make-a-Thon, WolfDen and the ACC Inventure Prize Competition.
Since its inception, the program has also served as a catalyst for networking and building unparalleled connections among engineering students of all disciplines. “Networking is one important component of entrepreneurship. Therefore the class helps students better understand how to network both within the class and within the community. For example, students generally come in their senior year not knowing anyone in class. By the end of the semester, everyone knows each other and in some cases they have even identified their co-founders,” says Marshall Brain, Director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program.
Today, more than 1,00 students have completed the program and many of the program’s graduates have become successful entrepreneurs, a clear demonstration of the caliber and eliteness of the program.
EEP Student Teams that Competed at the Lulu eGames
- CALM: an active-feedback deep compression therapy garment that helps reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders, enabling kids to focus in school, engage in everyday activities, and live happier, fuller lives.
- Seamless: a social solution to current fashion eCommerce problems. – Won $3,000
- Ryse: a mobility company developing a low-cost powered wheelchair that can traverse staircases and urban terrain.
- Thermoelectrix: an orthotic brace that uses electricity to provide cyclic cold and hot therapy – Won $5,000
- Safe Crate: an innovative anti-anxiety dog crate utilizing multiple technologies to keep our furry friends happy in stressful environments – Won $7,000
- Saphai: a novel spray-on coating that will convert nearly any surface to be self-cleaning – Won $5,000
- Summit Kinetics: a passive lower-body exoskeleton that gives the freedom of movement back to those in need – Won $8,000
EEP Notable alumni
- Donald (Donnie) J. Barnes: first employee at Red Hat
- Stephen Smith, Sean Echevarria, Michael Bissette and Spencer Vaughn: co-founded Jar~with~a~Twist (Stephen Smith is currently co-founder and CTO of BedRock Wireless)
- Hersh Tapadia: Co-founder and CEO, Allstacks
- Ankesh Madan, Stephen Grey, Tasso Von Windheim and Tyler Confrey-Maloney: Co-founded Undercover Colors
- Zach Fearnside and Steven Guido: Co-founded Aeva Labs
- Brandon Kashani: Founder and CEO, Trakid
- David Shaner: Founder and CEO, Offline Media
- Shraddha Rathod: Co-founder and CEO, Freshspire
- Greg Mulholland: Co-founder and CEO, Citrine Informatics
- Louis Lebbos: Founding Partner, AstroLabs
- Scott Klein: Co-founder, Statuspage
- Doug Walters: President, ArcLight Wireless
- Brooks Stephenson: Co-founder and CTO, Farmshots
- Saket Vora: VP of Hardware, Reconnect Inc.
- Joseph Fisher: Co-founder, Pearl, currently VP of Hardware, JUUL Labs
- Scott Bartlett: Director of Hardware, Afero
- Dave Anderson: Principal software engineer at Bronto Software, Co-founder, Peopleclick
To learn more about the EEP program, visit the program website.