Congressional staffers congregate at Tech

Photo by Tyler Meuter

From Sep. 2-4, Tech’s Office of Government and Community Relations hosted a group of 25 congressional staffers from various districts around Georgia.

The staffers participated in various talks and presentations, including a speech by current Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson, regarding Tech and its impact on both the state and national levels. As part of this two-day program, the congressmen attended a Student Entrepreneurship Panel, hosted by three current Tech students as well as by Dr. Craig Forest, an Associate Bioengineering Professor.

During the one-hour panel, the congressional staffers listened as the three students, all participants in an InVenture Prize (IP)  competition at some point in their Tech careers, told the stories of how they innovated, worked hard and ultimately created award-winning inventions. Then, the staffers conducted a question and answer session with the panelists, within which they were able to ask the students and professor about anything related to the InVenture Prize and their entrepreneurial work.

Student panelist Rachel Ford discussed the relationship between Tech and the IP created by students.

“What’s really amazing is that, Georgia Tech helps you, as if it’s (referring to the student’s IP) is your own,” said Ford. “As soon as the InVenture Prize is over, so many professors would help us… and they weren’t getting paid extra to do it, and it really shows the strength of the community here at Tech.”

“One of the misnomers here is that Georgia Tech is getting rich of all this great IP … when you balance the books at the end of year, we are making no money,” Forest said. “As a public university, its part of our mission to get all these great ideas off the bookshelf and out there.”

The staffers also seemed curious regarding the presence of women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines as well as entrepreneurial communities, and what Tech was doing to further their involvement.

“When I started here, there were maybe a few girls in my engineering classes,” said Ford. “If you look at the InVenture Prize contestants over the past few years, there are more and more girls taking part, which is very exciting … I’ve never been treated with disrespect. If anything, all I’ve gotten is encouragement and advice from all my male peers.”

Megan Fetcher, another student panelist, also commented on the topics of discussion.

“I’m a tour guide, and I’m seeing more and more girls in my groups, and it’s very exciting to see that Georgia Tech is spearheading this development,” Fetcher said.

Finally, when asked about how the InVenture Prize process had affected their future goals and whether they now planned on continuing work in their individual ventures, the three panelists described differing future plans. Yet all of the panelists present at the event pointed to their individual entrepreneurial experience that the competition afforded them as having had a major impact on their personal and professional development.

“Going through all of this, I would say that the experience helps in both personal entrepreneurship as well as innovation within a company,” Ford said. “So with that, if I have a great idea, I would love to go out and do it.”