Lehigh University
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IBE student comes to Lehigh to realize his California dreams

Adam Kornfield ’04 developed a strong liking for California after high school when he worked up and down the West Coast with AmeriCorps.

But when his 10-month stint with the national service program was finished and it was time to choose a college, Adam was drawn to Lehigh by the university’s new program in integrated business engineering (IBE).

“I would have liked to remain in California for school,” says Adam, whose parents both own small businesses, “but none of the schools there have a program like IBE.”

In his first three years at Lehigh, Adam gained national attention for the work he and a group of students did in an IBE product-design class. And he spent a semester at the Chinese University of Hong Kong through the university’s study-abroad program.

“It’s been a great experience,” he says. “You get a lot of guidance at Lehigh, a lot of good training. There are a lot of resources here. And it’s really cool to see a project through.”

Adam’s work in product design began in a freshman IBE course called Introduction to Product Development, in which students form teams, design and make new products, and develop a plan for marketing and selling them.

Adam, whose IBE concentration is computer technology, and fellow IBE student Jon Hjelte (also computer technology) designed a GlowFriends High-Tech Friendship Bracelet for girls aged 7-13. Girls can program their bracelets so that a light glows whenever a friend approaches.

When the class ended, Adam and Jon recruited four students from other disciplines and asked people in the toy industry about the feasibility of producing and selling their product.

The team won a $13,500 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and continued their work in IBE’s capstone senior design project, in which multidisciplinary teams of students use engineering and business problem-solving skills to learn about product development, marketing, strategic planning, competitive analysis, and system design.

In the spring of 2004, Adam’s team was one of 15 teams of student innovators invited to display their products at a national exhibit of student entrepreneurs in San Jose, Calif. The event, called “March Madness for the Mind,” was sponsored by NCIIA.

Adam was in Hong Kong at the time of the San Jose convention, but he flew to California to attend.

“It’s been a great experience,” he says. “The professors let us do this as our capstone project and also let us recruit other students. We’ve had to zig and zag and jump through some hoops, but it’s coming together, slowly.”

The bracelet, one of few high-tech toys designed for young girls, contains two layers of polyurethane that adjust like a watch strap. A heart-shaped rhinestone center glows when the bracelet is on. Along the band are six more rhinestones with light-emitting diodes inside each. Girls synchronize their bracelets with each other. When a “synchronized” friend comes within 300 feet of a bracelet wearer, a rhinestone on her bracelet begins to glow, shining brighter as the friend draws closer. The six light-emitting rhinestones can recognize up to six friends.

One or two venture capitalists have expressed interest in the bracelet, says Adam, as have a toy buyer and a toy-store owner.

“I’m very optimistic about what we can do if we perfect the bracelet technically. Our goal is a finished product. Even if make just $10, I will consider the project a great success.”

Adam says the IBE program offers advantages over a degree in either engineering or business. “IBEs see things from both sides. The program helps you understand the business ramifications of doing engineering and the engineering side of making a feasible product.”

During the summers of 2003 and 2004, Adam did internships with General Motors at its Bowling Green, Ky., plant, working in supply-chain management and indirect inventory work.

“In 2003, I had to go through $5 million of inventory and work with numerous departments to see what was needed and what wasn’t. We managed to eliminate $1 million of stuff.

“To do that, we had to come up with an accurate database to track the usage of glues, lubricants and power-steering fluids so that GM could reduce what it was using, both for cost and environmental concerns.”

After he completes his IBE degree, Adam will pursue an M.S. in computer engineering through Lehigh’s Presidential Scholarship program, which offers a tuition-free fifth year of study to students with a 3.75 GPA.

Posted on Tuesday, June 01, 2004

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