College of Engineering Launches Student Startup Center

Tina Seelig
Keynote speaker Tina Seelig

Entrepreneurial students at the UC Davis College of Engineering will soon have a dedicated on-campus space to prototype their ideas and collaborate on technology ventures. Located in Room 2060 of the Academic Surge building on the university campus, the new Engineering Student Startup Center (ESSC) will unleash the creative potential of engineering students by facilitating ideation, prototyping, collaboration, and ultimately, the formation of student-led technology startups. 

The Engineering Student Startup Center will be launched with a special event on Friday, October 11 from 3-6 p.m. in the lobby of Ghausi Hall. The event is jointly organized by the UC Davis College of Engineering and BetaVersity, a company that specializes in creating spaces and communities for technology design and entrepreneurship within universities and startup incubators. The keynote speaker will be Tina Seelig, professor at the Stanford School of Engineering and the executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. Other invited speakers include Enrique J. Lavernia, dean of the College of Engineering; Bruce White, director of the UC Davis Engineering Translational Technology Center (ETTC); Natalie Qabazard, president of the Engineering and Technology Entrepreneurship Club (E-TEC); and Lucas Arzola, founder and CEO of BetaVersity

Following the inauguration, BetaVersity will run one-day hackathon sessions on October 12 and 13 where students will learn how to best use the physical space and prototyping equipment in the ESSC. The event will also feature mentoring sessions where students will learn about topics related to idea generation, prototype creation, and technology commercialization. 

“Integrating entrepreneurship opportunities into engineering education is part of the vision for our college’s success for the future,” says Enrique Lavernia, dean of the College of Engineering, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. “Recruitment and retention of students is a challenge we share with engineering schools across the nation. Many engineering students are eager to see their ideas engage the marketplace, but aren’t certain how to proceed. Through an innovative collaboration with BetaVersity, the Engineering Student Startup Center will enlarge our educational experience by stimulating student engagement, integrating hands-on learning experiences, and incorporating opportunities for technology innovation.” 

The 543-sq. ft. ESSC facility located in Academic Surge 2060 has been designed to feature several resources to empower students at the early stages of their technology ventures. These features include materials and software for the creation of prototypes, a CubeX Trio color 3D printer for generating physical prototypes; a Next Engine 3D scanner for digitizing 3D physical models, and a ShopBot CNC device for milling and machining of plastics, wood, and aluminum. Operating under the direction of the ETTC, the new ESSC will be staffed by part-time students with consulting support from BetaVersity. 

“In the two years since the inception of ETTC, we have already successfully graduated three faculty startups with private investment, with several more in the works” says Bruce White, director of the Engineering Translational Technology Center, the technology incubator created to move faculty research from the lab to the marketplace. “The next logical step in our development is to empower students in a similar way. ESSC provides a learning platform to teach students about the process of generating ideas and evaluating the technical and commercial feasibility of engineering prototypes, through applied classroom instruction and peer-to-peer mentoring.” 

The College of Engineering plans to establish a new course to be incorporated into the Technology Management minor, Introduction to Engineering Entrepreneurship, which will integrate lectures and homework assignments to hands-on activities within ESSC that reinforce the concepts taught in class. ESSC will offer early stage support and assistance to students as they take their academic knowledge and proven skills and translate them into innovative solutions. Its proximity to the ETTC facilities in Academic Surge is expected to catalyze cooperation between the faculty and student entrepreneurs within the College of Engineering. ESSC will also incorporate interaction with highly successful alumni entrepreneurs, programs in the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis, and national entrepreneurship organizations that can provide mentorship to the emerging student-led startups. 

“I commend Dean Lavernia and the college for their commitment to providing capacity for student entrepreneurship through this on-campus space, and for entrusting BetaVersity to implement this important initiative,” says Lucas Arzola of BetaVersity, who as a doctoral student at UC Davis founded the Engineering and Technology Entrepreneurship Club (E-TEC). “During the last year of my doctoral program, we collaborated with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the NSF-funded National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) through their University Innovation Fellows program to increase student awareness for technology entrepreneurship. A very important aspect of the ESSC space is that it will teach technology oriented students to be entrepreneurial, a skill that will help them be successful in whatever career path they end up choosing. I am really excited about all of the amazing technologies that UC Davis students will now have a chance to create and commercialize, bringing tangible and positive impact to them, the university, the Sacramento region, and the world.” 

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