Bowling Green High School students Sean O'Donnell, left, and Jake Stucker created their product idea at BGSU's Collab Lab.

Bowling Green High School students Sean O'Donnell, left, and Jake Stucker created their product idea at BGSU's Collab Lab.

BGSU supports entrepreneurs’ product development efforts

By Alex Sciranka

It is no secret that Bowling Green State University houses a number of centers and laboratories for students to develop their research and innovations. But many of these facilities are also open for public partnerships. Private companies, nonprofit organizations and the general public can collaborate with the University to better develop potential business ventures.

That's exactly what two Bowling Green High School students did in 2018. Jake Stucker and Sean O'Donnell created a product idea aimed at helping protect bodies of water from being polluted or damaged by agricultural runoff.

The two pitched their idea at the 2018 DECA International Career Development Conference (ICDC) and took second place in the Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan category, in which more than 200 qualifiers from around the world competed. Not to mention, the ICDC hosts more than 19,000 students annually in Atlanta.

Stucker, who is currently taking general studies writing at BGSU through the College Credit Plus (CCP) program, and O'Donnell are fortunate in that they both have personal connections to BGSU alumni at local institutions of higher learning. Stucker's mother, Jenn Stucker '97, is an associate professor of graphic design at BGSU, while O'Donnell's mother, Amy O'Donnell '85, is a career development lecturer in the College of Business and Innovation at the University of Toledo.

Because of these connections, the two students were able to better assemble an advisory team that opened the doors to BGSU's Collab Lab and UT's Maker Society.

In developing their idea and prototype, Stucker and O'Donnell utilized the Collab Lab, a 2,000-square-foot facility designed for innovative thinking.

"We are thrilled that Jake and Sean were able to use the resources at the Collab Lab to advance their project," said Dr. Jerry Schnepp, Collab Lab director. "I hope that their example will inspire others in the community to come to the Collab Lab to explore new technology, engage in collaborative work and develop innovative solutions."

The Collab Lab offers the technology and expertise to help teams of innovators work together to conceive, create, develop and refine new products and services.

This creative, hands-on space is open to students, faculty, staff and community members looking to engage in collaborative work. Through the Collab Lab, Stucker and O'Donnell connected with student leaders as well as faculty concerned with water research.

"I served as a mentor to Jake and Sean," said Jacob Kielmeyer, BGSU junior and former BGHS DECA competitor. "They're both great kids eager to learn and, most importantly, willing to put in the time needed to succeed."

Kielmeyer assisted Stucker and O'Donnell with ideation and offered tips for presenting their product.

"BGSU provides a great environment for new ideas and entrepreneurs to thrive," Kielmeyer said.

He is one of many students to participate in The Hatch program. Similar to the popular television show "Shark Tank," The Hatch is an investment platform for BGSU student entrepreneurs to present their business ventures to a panel of alumni investors. Students hope to receive funding that will take their innovation from the idea stage to a product or business with commercial potential.

"We have over 60 students who have taken their ideas for funding through the Hatch program," said Kirk Kern, lecturer of marketing in the College of Business and director of the

Paul J. Hooker Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. "We are currently working with three past students on proving concept and taking their ideas to market."

In 2017, Kielmeyer presented his idea at The Hatch for "Nostalgia Therapies," a multifunctional Alzheimer's therapy tool he hopes will change the way families reconnect with loved ones suffering from the disease. His proposal garnered investment from two BGSU alumni, which helped further develop and research his idea. Kielmeyer is now connected with the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health as well as SarahCare, where he is developing a working prototype to use in an eight-week research trial.

To date, more than $500,000 has been committed to student startups. The next installment of The Hatch is set for April 11, when a new cohort of innovative students gets the opportunity to test their design thinking skills.

Not only did Stucker and O'Donnell enlist the help of the Collab Lab and Center for Leadership at BGSU, they also contacted University professors researching water concerns.

"I told them my assessment of the potential of their idea and offered some suggestions about additional information they might find helpful," said Dr. Bob Midden, associate vice provost for experiential and innovative learning and associate professor of chemistry.

Midden participates in a scientific research project investigating major issues threatening the environmental integrity and economic vitality of area fresh waters. The project is housed in the new Lake Erie Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health at BGSU.

In assessing the potential for their idea, Midden was able to provide "information about competing technology as well as scientific principles that would help them evaluate their idea and optimize its possible performance," he said.

With water research and safety at the height of local and global concern, their innovation could make significant impacts on the way pollution and its effects on human health are studied.

Updated: 03/18/2019 02:40PM