Northeastern University

01/09/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/09/2017 07:03

Built for Northeastern

This past semester as part of Generate, Northeastern's student-led product development studio led, engineering students built a remote control case and developed an electronics system that would enable wireless communication for an electric longboard for Generate's client Dash Electric. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

North­eastern stu­dent Ian Carlson is the founder of Dash Elec­tric, which is devel­oping 'the first elec­tric skate­board designed for the real world.' Dash, he says, serves as a means of engaging first-​​time long­board users as well as solving what is known as the 'last mile problem'-that many homes and busi­nesses in urban envi­ron­ments aren't sit­u­ated close to a transit station.

Last summer Carlson, AMD'17, turned to his peers to help take Dash to the next level-specifically, the senior applied to Gen­erate, Northeastern's student-​​led product devel­op­ment studio. Through this part­ner­ship, a team of North­eastern engi­neering stu­dents spent the fall semester building a case for the longboard's remote and devel­oping an elec­tronics system that would enable wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the remote and the longboard's cir­cuit board.

This type of collaboration-Northeastern stu­dents building pro­to­types and other prod­ucts to help stu­dent, fac­ulty, staff, and alumni entre­pre­neurs advance their ventures-is the brain­child of Gen­erate exec­u­tive director Mina Iskarous and tech­nology director Bailey Kane. In 2015, the then second-​​year stu­dents saw Northeastern's bustling entre­pre­neurial ecosystem growing by leaps and bounds and iden­ti­fied an oppor­tu­nity to build upon this momentum.

'We knew there were a lot of ven­tures that needed help building their prod­ucts, and that there were engi­neers who wanted this expe­ri­ence,' says Iskarous, E'19.

Gen­erate brings them together.

Carlson and the Gen­erate team working with Dash described the expe­ri­ence as mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial and raved about the oppor­tu­nity to col­lab­o­rate. 'I really wanted this cross-​​disciplinary expe­ri­ence,' said fourth-​​year mechan­ical engi­neering major and Gen­erate team member Mary Mor­rison. She pointed to the expe­ri­ence gained from coding and using Arduino-an open-​​source elec­tronics plat­form based on easy-​​to-​​use hard­ware and software-this semester, adding that she learned more about the busi­ness side of going from pro­to­typing to larger-​​scale manufacturing.

Gen­erate team mem­bers Andrew Mello and Mary Mor­rison both E'18, work on their product for Dash Elec­tric in the Sherman Center on Dec. 14, 2016. Photo by Adam Glanzman/​Northeastern University

Andrew Mello, a fourth-​​year elec­trical engi­neering major, under­scored the hands-​​on tech­nical skills and knowl­edge acquired through hours of research and building and

testing com­po­nents. As the project leader, Mello said he also grew his lead­er­ship skills from over­seeing the team and the project's deliverables.

In addi­tion to Dash, Gen­erate had two other clients this past semester: Tro­poG­a­rden, which is devel­oping a semi-​​automated indoor garden; and LZ Inno­va­tions, which is designing a mag­netic rebar cap to keep such caps from slip­ping off in an effort to improve safety on con­struc­tion sites. Gen­erate will partner with three new clients during the spring semester-one of which is SizeU, which is devel­oping an internet of things tape mea­suring device to change the con­ver­sa­tion when picking clothing from what is your size to what is your style. Gen­erate will help develop a min­imum viable product and help con­duct user expe­ri­ence testing.

As Iskarous sees it, Generate's mis­sion aligns with Northeastern's emphasis on expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion and stu­dent entre­pre­neur­ship. He and Kane launched Gen­erate in fall 2015, and the Build Studio-Generate's flag­ship program-began taking clients in the spring 2016 semester. Gen­erate also holds office hours and runs a speaker series to engage and edu­cate the North­eastern com­mu­nity on topics such as product devel­op­ment and new technologies.

'Our vision is to build, inspire, and edu­cate the next gen­er­a­tion of entre­pre­neurial product builders at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity,' Iskarous says.

Gen­erate is part of Mosaic, an alliance of student-​​led orga­ni­za­tions that sup­ports the incu­ba­tion of early-​​stage ven­tures at North­eastern. Together, these Mosaic organizations-including the ven­ture accel­er­ator IDEA-work together to help ven­tures meet the real-​​world chal­lenges facing star­tups. These orga­ni­za­tions col­lec­tively pro­vide many resources, including funding, con­nec­tions to men­tors, guid­ance around pro­tecting intel­lec­tual prop­erty, and design help.

Our vision is to build, inspire, and edu­cate the next gen­er­a­tion of entre­pre­neurial product builders at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity.
-Mina Iskarous, E'19, Generate's exec­u­tive director

Gen­erate works out of the Michael and Ann Sherman Center for Engi­neering Entre­pre­neur­ship Edu­ca­tion, which pro­vides 3-​​D printing equip­ment, soft­ware, meeting space, and other resources for the Build Studio teams to design and build prod­ucts for their clients. Pro­fessor Shashi Murthy, the center's director and Generate's co-​​faculty advisor, says he was impressed with the Gen­erate lead­er­ship team's ini­tial vision for cre­ating a peer-​​to-​​peer model, and he under­scored the group's pro­fes­sion­alism in exe­cuting that vision and growing rapidly over the past year.

Both Murthy and Iskarous also pointed to the crit­ical role alumni men­tors have played in Generate's suc­cess, noting the invalu­able industry expe­ri­ence they've brought to guiding these stu­dent teams toward achieving their clients' needs.

'Gen­erate is an inte­gral part of what defines the Sherman Center, and by exten­sion what defines the university's entre­pre­neurial ecosystem,' Murthy says.

Mark Sivak, asso­ciate teaching pro­fessor and a co-​​faculty advisor to Gen­erate, says he's been impressed with the organization's lead­er­ship and its work with clients. 'The ques­tions are the right ones, and the solu­tions are the right ones, too,' he says.

Gen­erate, he adds, offers stu­dents an oppor­tu­nity 'to amplify what hap­pens on co-​​op and in the class­room in a cool way.' Stu­dents gain hands-​​on expe­ri­ence, get exposed to the var­ious engi­neering dis­ci­plines, make con­nec­tions throughout North­eastern and 'see the whole playing field' in terms of the types of people they might interact with while working at a startup. As he put it, 'Gen­erate allows them to see what the pieces of the puzzle are and how they fit together.'