UCSC sows seeds for student entrepreneurship

Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ — In the latest effort to foster stronger ties with Silicon Valley firms and build its nascent on-campus culture of entrepreneurship, a panel of entrepreneurs was at UC Santa Cruz on Thursday to share experiences in wearable technology.

“Companies are looking for good ideas,” said Jayden Yuen, a senior, who is majoring in economics at UCSC. He is also trying to generate student collaborations through Lab-Apps, an entity he created to improve entrepreneurialism opportunities on university campuses. “We hope students will develop their own stuff. The companies would like to work with students.”

The Lab-Apps event was co-hosted by the UCSC-chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technology association for students and professionals.

The idea is to take students with specific skills and give them the collaborative opportunity and mentorship from companies to develop new ideas. Yuen describes it as a prototyping foundry.

The forum is a way to gain real experience in the field before they graduate, said San Jose State junior Jonathan Marinaro.

“We want to connect students with people in the field on the cutting edge,” Marinaro said. With sponsorship from companies and universities, Lab-Apps hopes to establish similar programs at other campuses as well. “We’re in the business of getting these guys started.”

About 65 students attended the Wearable Computing Innovation & Entrepreneurship panel.

Brittany West, 22, a junior majoring in game design and secretary of the local chapter of IEEE, expressed interest in wearable gaming technology. Elroy Salinas, 24, a junior in the robotics major and chair of the campus IEEE group, said he wanted to see stronger Silicon Valley ties.

“I really like the idea of companies in Silicon Valley reaching out to students,” Salinas said.

Although growing rapidly, the engineering culture is still in its infancy at UCSC, said Jacob Rosen, a computer engineering professor who has specializes in the field of medical robotics and has earned a certain amount of acclaim for creating the Raven II, which was the surgical robot featured in the movie, “Ender’s Game.”

“It’s gaining traction,” Rosen said. “I don’t see any cultural barriers as far as taking ideas and starting a company.”

Next on the agenda will be to see if there are possible collaborations with people from Google and from NeuroSky, a biotechnology sensor company in San Jose.

“We hope people will pay more attention to Santa Cruz,” Yuen said. “Santa Cruz has this unique way to do stuff but we need someone to market those smart people.”

The event was moderated by UCSC economics professor Kai Pommerenke. Panelists included Alex Lai, an engineer at Intel whose wearable tech startup is still in stealth mode; Jason Gui, founder and chief technology officer of Vigo, which is a crowdsource-funded startup promoting a new device to alert people who are drowsy; and Noel Victor, a multimedia producer from Transmedia in San Francisco.

“If people want to join together to do something then we can start something,” Yuen said.

For information, email yuenjaden@gmail.com, call 510-747-8139 or 408-454-8645.

Follow Sentinel correspondent Jennifer Pittman at Twitter.com/jenniferpittman


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