University gives high school students taste of entrepreneurship

Tucksinh Sysavat, a student with Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, pitches a self-drying umbrella at our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's Summer Entrepreneur Learning Academy on July 21.

Raising expectations

Tucksinh Sysavat, a student with Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, pitches a self-drying umbrella at our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's Summer Entrepreneur Learning Academy on July 21.

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everal Quinnipiac undergraduates gave New Haven high school students a taste of entrepreneurship during the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's Summer Entrepreneur Learning Academy (SELA).

“The entrepreneurial mindset must begin early,” said Norman Gray, SELA program founder and director of our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “What we are doing here is planting that seed.”

Metropolitan Business Academy senior Juwan Sims works on a prototype of his no-sew shirt button.

Buttoning up his project

Metropolitan Business Academy senior Juwan Sims works on a prototype of his no-sew shirt button.

The second annual SELA renews the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Quinnipiac’s commitment to community outreach and improvement.

The two-week program, made possible through a special partnership with the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCat), enabled 70 New Haven high school students to build and market viable products of their own design.

After spending a few days covering the basics of entrepreneurship, students split off into groups, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Their product ideas varied, and included a solar-powered cooker, no-sew shirt buttons and a self-drying umbrella.

“They really surprise you with what they come up with,” said economics major Marlon Pierre-Louis ’17.

Pierre-Louis was one of several Quinnipiac students who assisted the high school students with product development. More importantly, he gave students the space to work – and to fail – independently.

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Wilbur Cross High School junior Fernando Morales works with Quinnipiac economics major Marlon Pierre-Louis ’17 on July 18 during our Summer Entrepreneur Leadership Academy.

Gaining real-world experience

Wilbur Cross High School junior Fernando Morales works with Quinnipiac economics major Marlon Pierre-Louis ’17 on July 18 during our Summer Entrepreneur Leadership Academy.

“We want these kids to understand that this is a repetitive process,” he said. “Those early failures are what teach you the most.”

SELA students quickly learned that it takes more than a good idea and a clever product name to build a successful business and brand. They had the opportunity to wear many hats — from inventor to marketer to designer.

“You have to think the way your consumer would,” said Rosie Smokes, an incoming freshman at Career High School in New Haven.

Smokes was responsible for website and logo design for her group’s product “On Point,” a pre-packaged, peel-away eye makeup system.

“I never thought I’d be doing sketching and graphic design for something like this,” she said. “It’s been really fun.”

When it came time for SELA students to build live prototypes, mechanical engineering major Dillon Sarkodie ’18 consulted them about product design, and provided them with the supplies they needed.

Much of the equipment Sarkodie supplied was novel to SELA students like Noah Swanson, a rising senior at the Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven. Swanson and his teammates were exposed to coding and Bluetooth technology for the first time while working on “Freeze Flow,” a car air conditioning sensor meant to prevent heat stroke.

Sonto Okam, a high school student with New Haven-based Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, works on her product logo design on July 19.

Drawing up success

Sonto Okam, a high school student with New Haven-based Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, works on her product logo design on July 19.