High schoolers create business ideas at summer boot camp

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Melissa Osgood

Lindsay France/Cornell Marketing Group
Jeong Lee, left, of Ithaca, Asaru Turner, of Atlanta, Vlad Smarandache, of Bucharest, Romania, and Woocheol Hyun, of Ithaca participate in the Life Changing Summer program.

Eleven high school students from as far away as Romania and as close as Ithaca spent three weeks on campus creating new businesses with entrepreneurial Cornell student mentors this summer.

The students were part of the “Life Changing Summer” program hosted by Life Changing Labs (LCL) and Entrepreneurship at Cornell in the new eHub space in Kennedy Hall.

Ithaca high-schooler Freya Ryd’s idea for an app called “Commun” would allow people at social events or conferences to connect with like-minded folks in the same room. Asaru Turner of Atlanta has an idea for a “Detective” device that would detect contaminants in household water. And Romanian Vlad Smarandache’s “Wavekit” would help high school students teach themselves electronics by using a circuit board plugged into their computers.

“What they achieve in a three-week span is amazing and inspiring,” said Peter Cortle ’11, founder of Life Changing Labs and marketing specialist for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

The LCL high school program includes morning classes taught by Cornell students covering the basics of entrepreneurship, computer science and design, with afternoons spent conducting research and developing business ideas into products. Students also meet with alumni entrepreneurs, guest speakers and professors who offer business advice.

Additional activities include question-and-answer sessions with graduate students and workshops on everything from 3-D printing to resume creation.

The high school students also make key connections with student and alumni company founders who are on campus this summer working on their businesses at an LCL summer incubator.

“The high school students have so much energy, and our company founders are passionate about their ideas,” said Alexandra Voinea ’18, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major who stayed on campus this summer to help with both programs. Along with entrepreneurial and computer science skills, the students learn many “soft skills,” she said, such as making presentations, working in teams, dealing with setbacks and networking.

Ryd said the three-week process helped her gain confidence in herself and in her business. “It also helped that we could bounce ideas off of each other and receive constructive criticism and feedback,” she said. Along with the Commun app, Ryd is also involved with another business team developing a pill-reminder device that could be worn on the wrist.

“The program provides the opportunity for students to identify problems and generate solutions entrepreneurially and confidently pitch their ideas, opportunities that are not very accessible at the high school level,” said Michael Raspuzzi ’16, co-founder of the summer program and managing director of LCL. “Ultimately, the experience helps them learn more about how they can combine and apply their specific interests moving forward with their academic and professional goals.”

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.


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