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Celebrating students' 'Eureka!' moments



Richard Arlow, Brian Buchholz, Zachary Bloom (left to right) won the grand prize in the Joan F. & John M. Thalheimer Competiton.

Over the past few years, students at Lehigh have gone on to successfully launch businesses throughout the Lehigh Valley. More than a few of those budding entrepreneurs got their start with the university’s support structure and grant-funding competitions.

It’s a strong track record that has earned the respect of similarly-sized entrepreneurial programs across the country.

This past week, the Lehigh community paid tribute to that reputation by honoring its student entrepreneurs with its fourth annual Next STEP awards ceremony (Success Through Entrepreneurship in Pennsylvania). The program was jointly established and is co-sponsored by the Lehigh Entrepreneurs Network and the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone.

The ceremony applauds winners of Lehigh’s popular Eureka! Series of Student Entrepreneurship Competitions. Not only was the 2009 installment of the competition program the largest in the school’s history, but Lehigh awarded an all-time high of more than $27,000 in grant money to the contest winners, each of whom will be invited to participate in a semester-long entrepreneurial and innovation bootcamp hosted by the university.

It was also the first year for the Social Venture Creation Competition. The contest was established in 2008 to promote sustainable student ideas that benefit the greater good.

The greatest honor of the day, however, went to a trio of students, Richard Arlow ’09, Zachary Bloom ’09, and Brian Buchholz ’09, who created the company, LifeServe.

Last year, Arlow, Bloom and Buchholz were working on an Integrated Product Development (IPD) project when the start-up company that sponsored their project failed. With a semester left in the program, the students researched and designed a product that they first conceived during a jam session. Arlow, a bio-engineering major, and Bloom, a master’s candidate in the health and bio pharmaceutical program, frequently practice their guitars together, and while they strum, they discuss potential medical products, such as the one they built through the IPD program.

Because their patent is pending, Bloom would only describe LifeServe’s product as a potentially life-saving device to be used by emergency medical technicians. The students’ product won praises for its marketability and potential effectiveness in the medical market.

The LifeServe project took the grand prize in the popular Joan F. & John M. Thalheimer ’55 Competition. The team earned $5,000 for their business plan, and they will also mentor a group of IPD students to create a next-generation face mask used for oxygen delivery.

“We hope these products will revolutionize emergency care,” Bloom said. He sees the company expanding into fields beyond medical devices.

The first place in the Thalheimer competition was awarded to a team of sophomores. Alan Freeman ’11, Paul Nobile ’11, and Adam Smiga ’11 received $3,000 to develop their “culinary conveniences” business plan. They were followed closely by four other teams, each of whom was recognized as a Thalheimer Fellow and earned $500 for their efforts.

Making dreams a reality

Jason Kramer ’10 and Lisa Boyd ’10 won the first ever Social Venture Creation Competition for their non-governmental organization, HAWILI. Through the NGO, the students plan to build or repair water systems in Tanzania, where Boyd is currently studying abroad. After the water systems are established, the students plan to work with locals to ensure that the system remains in use after it’s built.

Kramer says that the $5,000 helped establish their organization. “It made our idea into a reality,” he says. “Up until the award, we didn’t know if it was feasible.”

This year was also the first year for the Michael W. Levin ’87 Advanced Technology Competition. The award supports student companies that offer products or services based in technology. This year’s award was given to two equally impressive companies, Gigmax and Plug Away, who had previously won the Thalheimer competition. The companies received $5,000 each to further develop their companies and products.

Gigmax.com, was created by Matt Kenig ’09 and David Gerlach and offers 1 gigabyte of free online storage space specifically designed for high school and college students.

Greg Capece ’10, Dana Hajedemos ’10 and Michale Harm ’10 designed Plug Away to allow those with poor hand dexterity to easily insert and remove electrical cords.

The expansion of the Eureka! Ventures Competition is just one way the university supports student entrepreneurship. Lehigh fosters enterprising endeavors in technology, arts and social sciences. Its newly created entrepreneurship Web site features several of Lehigh’s most celebrated entrepreneurial programs, departments and courses.

The site’s grassroots logo represents Lehigh’s approach to student enterprise, says Lisa Getzler-Linn, the director of Lehigh Entrepreneurs Network. She says Lehigh strives to “prepare a fertile ground, plant the seeds, nurture the shoots and then get out of the way—the growth will be fantastic!”

--Tom Yencho and Becky Straw


Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2009

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