Not Your Dad's Garage
Angela wants to improve clothing for infants and toddlers. Andrew is developing an electric supercharger for motorcycle engines. A team of seniors -- Stephen, David, Ishan, and Adam -- are pooling their talents to create an innovative Smartboard. All these students are turning their dreams into reality thanks to the resources provided at The Garage! But it's nothing like your father's garage!
Tucked away in the basement of Research IV on Centennial Campus, The Garage is NC State's first facility with a focus on student entrepreneurship. Dr. Tom Miller, director of NC State's Entrepreneurial Initiative, said that there was no 'aha moment' for the idea -- rather it developed over time, as a shared vision of a number of faculty, staff, and students. Dr. Steve Walsh was the first to call it 'the Garage.'
What makes The Garage unique is the mission to connect with the entrepreneurial community, both locally and beyond. The 2000-square-foot facility is sponsored by the NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative (EI) and Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions. NC State found the space, and Red Hat provided the lab equipment, tools, technology, and furnishings. But it's the students who make The Garage buzz with excitement!
Students -- undergraduate and graduate -- across disciplines now have a place to brainstorm, plan, design and build new products, services, and solutions for the real world. They can work individually or in teams. The Garage provides the space for all of them to settle in and spread out 24/7 -- and anywhere from a week to a full semester. Students have a woodworking shop, as well as an electronics work area, with all the necessary tools and equipment. The Garage also houses meeting rooms with SmartBoards and video conferencing equipment, a small library, lockers for storage, a lounge, and a kitchenette. Both Miller and Dr. Seth Hollar, The Garage manager, envision expanding into a permanent facility near the living-learning community being planned on Centennial Campus. Meanwhile, students are making the most of this well-needed resource.
Two of the graduate students at The Garage are Angela Hollen (Textiles) and Andrew Misenheimer (Electrical Engineering).
Angela's Story: Upon the completion of my undergraduate degree in Textiles and Brand Management/Marketing this past summer, I began focusing all my efforts on developing a new textile venture. I am working on starting a children's clothing line for infants and toddlers which will be made from performance fabrics. These fabrics will be anti-odor, antimicrobial, stain resistant and moisture resistant. Our classic line will be comprised of basic pieces which are easily integrated into a child's preexisting wardrobe. My interest in performance fabric began with my senior project. I partnered with UNIFI Inc. to develop custom yarns with specific properties in order to make a new textile product, a sports wheelchair cushion cover. The cover provided the user with comfort, breathability, stretch, abrasion resistance, antimicrobial control, UV protection, moisture management and was machine washable. Through research and hands on testing, I began to understand how extensive the market opportunities really are for these fabrics. I truly believe that performance fabrics have the potential to bring America back its once very strong presence in the textile and apparel marketplace.
The Garage is a wonderful opportunity for students because it has created an environment which fosters creativity and ingenuity. It provides innovative students the physical and motivational tools necessary to turn their conceptual ideas into physical innovations. Students are the future. Through product development and launching new ventures we have the potential to revitalize industries, stimulate economic growth, and ultimately change the way people live and interact. We are up for the challenge.
Andrew's Story: Motorcyclists today want more power but the current technology is either too dangerous or expensive. To increase power, one must either upgrade to a larger, heavier bike or purchase aftermarket mechanical systems that all decrease fuel economy and safety. The SPARK electric supercharger is compact and versatile for many bike models and remains idle to conserve fuel until the rider desires instantaneous power. However, once the front tire pitches up or bike leans over, the system will sense increased danger and reduce power to keep the rider safe. I first began this concept in the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP) senior design classes with three other teammates. Until this entrepreneurial experience, I had no space on campus to work on my project except for when it wasn't an inconvenience to the WolfPack Energy Efficient Locomotion (WEEL) student teams. Thanks to Red Hat's gratuitous donation and the hard work of many great faculty and staff, I now have all the resources to improve my concept in the EI garage -- and no excuse for procrastinating to pursue my entrepreneurial dream.
For more information about NC State's entrepreneurial focus, see Springboard Innovation Partnership Portal.
Story by Patricia Sullivan
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