By Daniel Estep, College of Engineering and Architecture intern
PULLMAN, Wash. – Translating great ideas into tangibles the world can use is getting a boost at Washington State University, thanks in part to junior chemical engineering student Jade C. Patterson.
Patterson is one of 13 entrepreneur ambassadors nationwide with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). As such, he helps student groups get financing through NCIIA grants.
“The NCIIA helps student groups start up a company as entrepreneurs,” he said. “As an entrepreneur ambassador, I seek student groups out and get them to apply for the grants.
“For many students, it is important to know about this resource that is available to them to help them fund things like senior design products or their own startup companies,” he said.
Connecting inventors and investors
“One of the coolest ideas I heard a student group pitch to me was a website idea that brings investors and inventors in contact with one another,” Patterson said. The website would feature business plan ideas by inventors that could be seen by investors looking for up-and-coming companies to invest in.
Another potential startup is from a group of WSU students that is developing a product that can quantify respiration, Patterson said.
“The idea is to help athletes train more effectively and safely by taking measurements of their respiratory system as they exercise,” he said. The group is developing a prototype and doing market research.
Positive impact on society
In order for a student group to be eligible to apply for the grants, the product they are developing has to fit the following criteria: it has to be innovative, it has to be scaleable, and it has to have a positive impact on society. Scaleable means the potential business will be able to grow once it gets off the ground.
So far one group has received a grant this semester; however, there are three groups that will apply for grants in December.
Patterson also talks with classes about course and program grants through the NCIIA. The classes may be eligible for additional funding for lab equipment or materials, for example. And Patterson benefits by developing his public speaking skills.
Learning entrepreneurship
He said he had no prior entrepreneurship background. He was told about the position by Robert Olsen, associate dean for undergraduate programs and student services in the College of Engineering and Architecture.
“It has been a great experience for me to meet tons of people and let them know about the funding they can receive,” Patterson said. “I am excited to try something new and challenging while expanding my horizon.”