Tech innovators help create future

If necessity is the mother of all invention, then Tech is the great uncle. Each year innovative students and faculty throughout the Tech community design, create, and invent everything from new household goods to cutting-edge medical equipment. In this week’s issue of the Technique, we highlight four of those many students who are working, to not only better Tech, but also our world with their ingenuity.

Kurt Heinrich – 

Chosen to participate as part of Tech’s newest start up business program, Flashpoint, a second-year BA major and CS minor, Kurt Heinrich has created a way of seamlessly integrating inventory management and order fulfillment with his website Developed in grade school at the age of fourteen, Kurt needed a way to manage his own on-line iPod accessory store. What started out as a small, manageable web-store quickly evolved into a full-time job, generating over $20,000 within its first Christmas season open for business. Realizing that other small businesses were probably facing the same problem, Kurt decided to expand his handy bit of computer code from a personal application into a small-time enterprise. Fast forward to today and Kurt is making his way from New York to San Francisco demoing his product alongside the seventeen other companies involved with the Flashpoint program. According to Heinrich, “If you have a great idea that you are passionate about, then pursue it.”

Jenny Drinkard – 

Old school methods, product development and marketing are a thing of the past for Jenny Drinkard, ID ‘11, inventor of the Groove. Her handy, multifaceted cleaning device used to clean those hard-to-reach spots that inhabit every household may be receiving a warm welcome from moms across the nation, but this fact is overshadowed by Drinkard’s real achievement. Her real accomplishment came through working in tandem with a new website called Quirky that is geared primarily at combining industrial design with an ever-expanding social-media medium to bypass traditional methods of product development by combining the efforts of numerous developers and designers to ease start up costs and streamline the development process. With this new resource, Jenny was able to develop, design, and render old cleaning brushes obsolete with her new all-in-one cleaning device with a detachable end — so much so that she appeared on the Rachel Ray Show this year to demonstrate the product.

Melissa McCoy – 

Innovation comes in all forms and for Melissa McCoy, fourth-year ChBE, it came in the form of a conference she brainstormed and developed on her own, called ‘Enterprise to Empower.’ The name was derived from the ability of social enterprises to empower others (help others help themselves) rather than creating dependent relationships through handouts. A very involved student at Tech, Melissa was always fascinated by microfinance and the broader concept of social enterprise. While working in Chile for a mining company in spring 2010, she searched for a better way to implement this concept, based on principles of free enterprise. Her inspiration came from Muhammad Yunus and the story of how he founded Grameen Bank and started the microfinance movement in Bangladesh. When she came back to school, she organized a conference that had 20 speakers —CEOs, founders and academics in the realm that was attended by 120 students and professionals. The success and overwhelming interest in social enterprises led to the creation of an organization of the same name.

Chris Lee – 

Perhaps no other field of study has evolved as rapidly in the last fifty years than biomedical devices. Developing hand-in-hand with  other technological improvements, there is no greater example of that than ever-expanding biomedical research being done here at Tech. Students like Ph. D. candidate Christopher Lee are paving the way for the future of health care. Working in collaboration with a cosmetic surgeon, Chris set out to develop a long-term injectable hydrogel as an improved form of soft tissue filler to replace the short shelf life current fillers. When Chris’s test results yielded a new form of hydrogel that is able to deliver fat-derived stem cells which could regenerate soft tissues at various degrees of hardness, he realized the practical medical uses immediately. He filed for a patent and licensing his development methods to a start up company here at Tech.