Commercialization Fellowship Changes Hunter Adams’ Path

Hunter Adams, fourth year Ph.D. student in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell, really likes hardware. “There is something indisputable about hardware,” says Adams. “You can run simulations all day without a real, unarguable end result. With hardware, it either works or it doesn’t.”

When Adams first came to Cornell in 2011 for his undergraduate studies, his primary interest was in particle physics. He declared as a physics major and then became impatient with the pace of experimental particle physics. “I found out that I really want a much quicker pace.” This dual desire for testable hardware and a faster experimental timeline led Adams to discover engineering.

“As a physics major at Cornell, you have a lot of freedom when it comes to taking classes outside of the department,” explains Adams. “You get to choose a number classes as a “concentration” within the physics major. Rather than picking an existing concentration, I created my own—spacecraft engineering.” Adams connected with Mason Peck, associate professor in Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and former chief technologist at NASA, and began working in Peck’s Space Systems Design Studio. “I still feel so lucky that I found Mason and got into his lab,” says Adams.

Adams spent one summer working at SpaceX, where he noticed that everyone doing the job he eventually wanted to all had their Ph.D.s. “That pretty much decided it for me,” says Adams. “I didn’t really consider going anywhere else for my doctorate.” Adams knew he wanted to build a complete hardware system from start to finish. He didn’t know exactly what it would be, but he was determined that it would be useful. “I am deeply motivated by finding solutions to problems that are of immediate practical use,” says Adams.

Ph.D. Commercialization Fellow Hunter AdamsAdams talked through his ideas with Mason Peck, and together they arrived at a project that seemed to be the right size.The project they came up with is called Monarch. It is based on a design started by another of Peck’s graduate students six years ago. The original idea was for small (roughly two-inch square) satellites that could be deployed in a swarm to gather and send data. Under Adams, the original idea has morphed into slightly larger square sensors that take advantage of recent improvements in processing, tiny solar cells, GPS capabilities, and lighter substrate materials. Each Monarch has a GPS, an accelerometer, a magnetometer, a gyroscope, light sensors, a thermometer, a processor, and a radio transmitter.

“I prototype the entire system on a lab bench,” says Adams. “And once I’m convinced it works I’ll use a CAD program to make the same circuit on a computer. I send the files off and have boards back within a week. Then we test the boards. It usually takes a few iterations to get it right.” Sometime during Adams’ third year working on Monarch, he and Peck agreed that they had “gotten it right” and they began to focus on ways the Monarch could be put to use. They had a few ideas and weren’t sure which to pursue.

At this point, Professor Peck sent Adams a blank application for Cornell Engineering’s Commercialization Fellowship. Adams was selected as one of six Cornell Engineering Ph.D. student Commercialization Fellows for 2018. Surprisingly, (even to Adams, himself), one of the commercialization ideas that seems to hold the most promise does not involve rockets or space at all.

“I spent much of the summer visiting vineyards and speaking with vineyard managers to learn how they make decisions,” says Adams with a somewhat bemused look on his face. “I went to California, the Finger Lakes, and New Zealand.” One requirement of the Commercialization Fellowship is that Ph.D. students do “customer discovery interviews” with at least 100 potential customers. “It’s not to talk about your technology, but instead to learn how they make decisions and what they would find useful.”

What Adams discovered through this process is that the information his Monarchs could collect and transmit would be valuable to vineyard managers. The Monarchs would not be sent to space and released into orbit. Instead, they would be placed strategically throughout a vineyard to gather hyper-local data on light, moisture, temperature and other factors that would allow vineyard managers to better manage their resources and maximize their harvests.

“This fellowship has been so valuable,” says Adams. “Through the customer discovery process I have identified the hardware I need to build. As someone who is committed to making useful stuff, I’m now fully convinced that this is useful.” Adams hopes to build the final version of the Monarch this semester while piecing together all the other parts that go into starting a business. “I intend to finish my Ph.D. by May and then apply to the Small Business Innovation Program (SBIR).” The SBIR is a U.S. government program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization.

“This has been a seriously unexpected turn in my degree path—my family is pretty amused by it all,” says Adams, with that same bemused smile. “I am excited to pursue this full-time.”

So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur?

By Donnie Hampton and Earl Roach III, Two-Year MBAs ’19

This series is intended to help you maximize your time at Johnson as an aspiring entrepreneur. We came to business school to gain the skills necessary to grow as an entrepreneurs, and we are excited to provide additional insights on the resources and opportunities available at Cornell.

During our first-year at Johnson, we worked on multiple business ideas through two courses, participated in five hackathons, attended more than five entrepreneur-focused networking events in the community, and joined a variety of entrepreneurial clubs at Johnson. Building on our experience, we encourage you to consider the ideas presented in this series to support your Cornell journey as an entrepreneur.

Step 1: Choose courses that empower you to work on an actual business idea

Working on your own business idea in class is a great way to optimize your learning and help you make tangible progress with advisors as you improve your idea.

Johnson offers more than 20 different entrepreneurial courses, with new courses being added every semester. Given the finite amount of time Johnson students have available while completing their graduate studies at Cornell, we have listed some of the more popular courses that allow you to work on a business idea to help put your classroom learning into practice.

To read the full article, click here:



Cornell Alumnus Nick Beyer ’00 Talks About Leadership, Impact, and Coffee

When he founded Saxbys in 2005, Nick Bayer didn’t just want to compete in a crowded market for caffeinated brews. Bayer wanted his company to stand out for its social impact. Guided by a mission to “make life better,” Saxbys grew from a corner cafe into a successful chain stretching from Georgia to New Hampshire. A longtime Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell, Bayer seeks to nurture the ambitions and skills of upcoming entrepreneurs. Saxbys runs a pioneering program to empower young leaders by putting students in charge of cafes on college campuses.

What does Saxbys do, and what problem does it solve?
Saxbys strives to make life better. We are a hospitality and social impact company first and foremost, with our efforts primarily rooted in education and opportunity. We’re also a product company. We used to say “coffee company,” but now Saxbys has evolved to become much more than that. It’s the hospitality and the ability to provide a welcoming space for the community to gather and connect that defines us.

To read the full article, click Saxbys founder Nick Bayer ’00 serves up coffee with social impact

Ithaca Named One of the Most Innovative Cities in the U.S.

(This story appeared in the USA Today newspaper on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. It was written by John Harrington and Michael B. Sauter)

As America’s economy continues to shift from heavy industry to technology, certain areas of the country have gained a reputation for innovation.

Many factors contribute to differences in innovation activity in U.S. cities, including the presence of research institutions, efforts by local government and chambers of commerce, access to venture capital, and the ability of leadership to read the tea leaves of the future.

24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the 25 most innovative cities in the United States based on data obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the year 2015, the most recent year that data is available. 24/7 Wall St. listed the metropolitan areas with the highest number of patents issued per 100,000 city residents.

Many of the metropolitan areas on this list are home to major research institutions, as well as some of the nation’s largest companies in STEM fields, both of which tend to be the primary producers of patented technology.

Ithaca was ranked at #13.

• Patents granted in 2015 per 100,000 residents: 133.4
• Patents granted in 2015: 1,638
• Population: 104,926
• Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 52.2 percent

Ithaca, with a population of about 104,000, is the third smallest city on our list. It is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College. Cornell has created the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement that supports economic progress through innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of that mission, the initiative has backed programs such as Rev: Ithaca Startup Works and the Southern Tier Startup Alliance. Ithaca College hosts an annual educational technology day that draws national and local vendors. Included among the vendors at the most recent event was specialty glass and ceramics company Corning Inc., whose headquarters is 35 miles southwest of Ithaca.

For full list, click on this link.

Fuel Entrepreneurship Pursuits

Date: Nov. 1 – Nov. 30th, 2018
Help fund student travel to competitions and conferences. Students need to travel in order to Fuel Entrepreneurship Pursuits from idea to implementation; however, many young entrepreneurs cannot afford to do so without the help of special grants for travel. Among the students who will receive travel reimbursement funds are eLab students who travel to Silicon Valley, and student delegates to the  Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference who have committed to taking action on social entrepreneurship projects.
Donate Here

Orphanage aquaponics, CAD keyboard, autonomous bike among 2018 Engineering Innovation Award winners

An advanced portable keyboard for CAD users and an aquaponic greenhouse designed to help orphanages in Latin America are among the winners of the Cornell Engineering Innovation Award Competition, announced Sept. 4. The award ceremony was held in Duffield Hall during a project showcase and celebration of David Duffield ’62, MBA ’64, as recipient of Cornell Engineering’s first Distinguished Alumni Award.

Winners of the 2018 Innovation Awards competition pose with their checks on the steps of the Duffield Atrium.The competition was open to teams of students from across the university; each team had to consist of a majority of undergraduate engineers. Ten Cornell faculty and staff members served as judges for the competition.

“The purpose of the competition is to encourage and recognize independent work done by our engineering undergraduate students on innovative engineering design product concepts,” said Mike Thompson, director of undergraduate engineering programs and competition judge. “This competition really reflects the strength and vitality of the Cornell entrepreneurial spirit.”

More than 30 teams entered the competition, and prizes were awarded in three categories, each coming with a $5,000 to $10,000 award thanks to alumni donors.

The Ron G. Kermisch ’88 Award for implementation of a fully demonstrated physical prototype went to YNot Bikes. YNot Bikes is developing an autonomous electric bicycle that can be summoned to drive itself to the user’s location via smartphone app. The Kermish award comes with a $10,000 cash prize and is funded by a gift from Ron G. Kermisch ’88.

The Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Award for most innovative and developed concept was given to two teams. The first was Prometheus, which developed an advanced portable keyboard for use with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) programs. There are many specialized inputs required for CAD work on laptops and tablets and many users would find it especially helpful to have a keyboard designed specifically for this type of work.

The second Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Award was given to Titan Analytics. They are creating an advanced image recognition and tracking algorithm that allows coaches to more easily analyze films of the action from football games. Prometheus and Titan Analytics have each received a cash prize of $5,000. The Fichtl award is funded by a generous gift form Burt Kaliski and Michele Kaliski ’85.

The Yunni and Maxine Pao Award for social innovation solving a pressing global challenge was given to SOS Aquaponics. This award comes with a $10,000 prize, which is funded by a gift from Carolyn Wang ’00 and Jeff Pao ’00. SOS Aquaponics is an effort through Cornell’s Office of Engagement Initiatives. The team’s aim is to build aquaponics facilities at orphanages in Latin America. Each aquaponics greenhouse would include equipment to raise rainbow trout and to grow lettuce. Both products could then be eaten or sold for a profit.

Team member Max Chao ’18 says, “The next few steps for SOS Aquaponics will happen in the classroom and in Chile. Students within the BEE 4890 class will work on improving business plans while we work with SOS Villages and Fundacion Chile to secure more funding for the construction of the first greenhouse, hopefully in Puerto Varas.” The $10,000 prize will also be used for greenhouse construction.

The third annual Engineering Innovation Competition will be held in April 2019. “There are so many opportunities for undergraduates at Cornell to explore innovation,” says Thompson. “There are classes and clubs and rapid prototyping facilities. We’ve got REV and the McGovern Center and the new physical sciences incubator in Duffield Hall. There are really too many to list.”

2018 Cornell Energy Connection Event: Nov. 2

Cornell Entrepreneurship Summit ’18 NYC: Nov. 9

Original story from the Cornell Chronicle published Oct. 15.

Founders of businesses including the Pink Ceiling, Bluemercury and First Round Capital will speak at the seventh Cornell Entrepreneurship Summit NYC Nov. 9, hosted by Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

The Summit, with the theme of “Eclectic Convergence,” will feature eight business leaders giving TED-style talks about their entrepreneurial journeys. They will share insights about their successes and challenges, and encourage participants to connect with each other for collaborative opportunities.

Audience members will hear pitches from four startup companies spun out of the Cornell Technology Licensing office, with a winner announced at the end of the day.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Times Center in Manhattan, followed by a cocktail reception. More than 500 participants are expected.

“Summit is a wonderful event, and we are always thrilled with its energy and engagement,” said Zach Shulman ’87 J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

The event will feature a chat between Robert Nardelli, former chairman and CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler and former CEO of GE Power Systems, and Leigh Gallagher ’97, a senior editor at large at Fortune. Featured speakers include Cindy Eckert, founder of The Pink Ceiling; Hayley Barna, partner at First Round Capital; and Barry Beck ’90, co-founder and chief operating officer of Bluemercury.

“Every corner of every industry is in disruption mode. You don’t have to be a Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs to create revolutionary change,” Beck said. “I am excited to share my eight start-up tips for entrepreneurs about how to start a company, build a brand and revolutionize an industry.”

Other speakers include:

  • Matt McGraw ’95, CEO, The Bureau and Dispatch Labs;
  • Nova Cadamatre ’06, owner, Trestle Thirty One winery;
  • Marlon Nichols, MBA ’11, founding managing partner, Cross Culture Ventures;
  • Cory Johnson, chief market strategist, Ripple, and
  • Scott Belsky ’02, entrepreneur, author, investor and chief product officer of Adobe, who will act as emcee and moderator.

Learn more or register.

Cornell #11 Among Best Colleges for Start-Ups

Colleges play a vital role in teaching students the basics of entrepreneurship while providing support through competitions, experiential learning opportunities, mentorships, accelerator programs, and startup labs. Most importantly, many schools provide a network of alumni who may want to mentor or invest in these students.

The best colleges for startups are primarily located on the East and West coasts. The heart of West Coast entrepreneurship lies in Silicon Valley, spreading north to Seattle and south to Los Angeles. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia make up the majority of the East Coast hubs. About half of the schools on our list are located in these six areas. In order to foster connections with coastal industries, some inland schools offer entrepreneur-focused campuses on the coast, while others offer internship opportunities or summer programs in those locations.

Most of these entrepreneurial programs are offered by large research universities or Ivy League schools, as they often possess the business, engineering, and liberal arts programs needed to stimulate the flow of ideas. These schools also tend to boast influential alumni networks.

Cornell University:

Like many schools, Cornell infuses entrepreneurship across its campus, finding and developing a spirit of entrepreneurship within its various colleges and disciplines. To encourage entrepreneurship on campus, the school offers incubators, accelerators, labs, funding opportunities, and internship programs. Students can gather at the eHub, a collaborative working space, or apply to participate in eLab, the school’s accelerator program for student startups. Students involved with eLab receive one-on-one mentorship, professional legal consultations, and can attend events with Cornell’s large network of alumni entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship at Cornell receives support from a committed advisory council of more than 100 members. StartUpTree compiles a list of startups enacted by Cornell alumni. In total, these startups have secured more than $10 billion in funding. Some well-known companies with roots at Cornell include Blackboard,, Lyft, and Wayfair.

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‘Literally Endless’ Resources Help Support Student Startups

Students work late into the night at eHub. Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Colby Triolo ’19 is one of hundreds of students running a startup at Cornell, and she remembers the “very second” the idea for her startup came to her.

After suffering from post-concussion syndrome for almost two years, Triolo had her first headache free day in 724 days. Two weeks later, she was in the car with her dad explaining how she overcame her condition and was back to exercising. While talking about it she said the words “You make you,” and they both knew that this slogan was something that “needs to be shared.”

Flash forward three years and YouMakeYou® is now the name of Triolo’s startup, which focuses on happiness, healthiness and fitness.

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