Engineering student shines at high-powered entrepreneurship boot camp

May 7, 2012

Think of it like this: You’re part of a small, fledgling advertising agency that has promising talent but not a great amount of experience or a long track record.

Then there’s a surprise call from a major international corporation inviting your agency to make a pitch for their advertising business. ASU student at E-Bootcamp Download Full Image

But your company can send only one representative. And, oh, one other thing, can you get your presentation ready to go in just a few days?

That’s close to the kind of situation ASU student Lindsay Fleming felt like she was in several weeks ago.

She was shocked when she received word of approval of her “spur of the moment” application to be her team’s pitcher at E-Bootcamp at Stanford University, a high-powered conference, workshop series and competition for leaders of promising entrepreneurial ventures being birthed by college students.

Fleming, a chemical engineering major in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, is one of the founders of SafeSIPP (Sustainable Innovative Portable Purification), along with fellow chemical engineering students Jared Schoepf and Taylor Barker, and marketing and finance major Jacob Arredondo.

Their venture, which evolved through ASU’s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program, is developing a product called PureRoll. It’s a 30-gallon barrel equipped with a three-phase water-filtration system and a handle so it can be easily pulled over varied terrain – and 80 percent of it can be made from recycled materials.

It’s been designed with places like South Africa in mind, where villagers far from modernized urban areas must haul water manually across long distances – water that is often contaminated and becomes a source of illness and other health problems.

Besides helping to provide clean water, PureRoll is expected to double the amount of water individuals can haul at one time and greatly reduce the time needed to make the trip.

SafeSIPP is also establishing a micro-financing platform designed to enable people to purchase the barrels through a low-cost installment plan and then sell the additional purified water they can more easily obtain and transport through use of PureRoll. SafeSIPP’s members estimate the additional revenues villagers could generate might increase their annual incomes by as much as 25 percent.

Last fall, SafeSIPP’s idea won $2,000 in support from Intel Corp. as the grand prize in a competition among EPICS teams. Earlier this year, SafeSIPP was awarded $3,000 as one of the winners in ASU’s Innovation Challenge and $1,500 from Intel in another EPICS competition. Most recently the team earned $950 in startup support from General Dynamics Corporation.

The team also has begun working with the My Arms Wide Open Foundation, which supports efforts to establish sustainable communities and businesses in South Africa.

Despite that progress, the team had little expectation of getting an E-Bootcamp invitation. When she received the notification, Fleming recalls, “I had one of those ‘Am I dreaming?’ moments.”

Before long she was one of 100 college students from throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, South America and elsewhere gathering with prominent entrepreneurs, successful business investment and startup experts, venture capitalists and corporate leaders.

The four-day day event in April – organized by the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students and the Business Today media group, based at Princeton University – lived up to its name as a boot camp.

Fleming says she was able to get no more than three to four hours of rest each night in between workshops, meetings, presentations and the preparations for the business-pitch competition.

Facing panels of experts, students had to explain the business strategies behind their projects and extol the societal value of their ventures’ goals.

After two rounds of pitches, Fleming got another surprise: She was one of only 15 E-Bootcamp students to move onto the final round.

“Some of the other students and their partners have been working on their projects for a few years, SafeSipp was just an idea only nine months ago, so I never expected to get that far,” she says.

She didn’t make it to the final five and win an opportunity to pitch at another elite student entrepreneur event called DEMO Day. But E-Bootcamp was “the experience of lifetime,” Fleming says. “You come back full of ideas and energy. I feel uplifted knowing I could hang in there with that crowd of amazing students.”

The SafeSIPP team plans a trip to South Africa in the fall to pilot-test PureRoll and get feedback on the effectiveness of the product’s design. The team hopes to also begin collaborating with local communities in Africa on plans to establish local manufacturing of the device.

Fleming says she’ll apply lessons she learned at E-Bootcamp about product development, business legalities and cultural relations to SafeSIPP’s efforts.

More than that, connections she made at the event with experienced entrepreneurs and investors might provide the project some valuable mentorship and a step to more financial support.

“Our whole team is stoked,” she says.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Three score for Sun Devils as Pac-12 combined events conclude

May 7, 2012


Keia Pinnick scored a career-best 5,703 points in the heptathlon en route to a runner-up finish at the Pac-12 Combined Events in Eugene, Ore., while senior Austin Prince took a career-best fourth in the decathlon for the Arizona State University track and field team on Sunday.  Download Full Image

It was the second consecutive Pac-12 runner-up finish for the junior as she earned eight points towards the Sun Devils' team cause heading into next weekend's Pac-12 Championships.  The score also increased Pinnick's hold on third place in school history in the event as well.

Pinnick took second behind Brianne Theisen of Oregon, who set a Pac-12 record with 6,307 points in her victory at Hayward Field.

Pinnick opened the day with a third-place finish in the long jump with a leap of 6.02m (19-09.00) before logging a throw of 33.05m (108-05) in the javelin throw for the seventh-best mark of the competition as she held on to her second-place hold in the event.

The junior concluded the day with a third-place finish in the 800-meter run in 2:13.78 to wrap up the two-day competition and easily hold on to her second-place hold. 

The ASU women will now enter next weekend already sitting third in the team competition thanks to Pinnick's performance.

In the men's decathlon, seniors Austin Prince and Jamie Sandys continued their consistent performance from Saturday as they would go on to finish fourth and seventh, respectively, in the competition.  Prince finished with 6,917 points while Sandys posted 6,854 over the two days. Prince's score was a career-best by nearly 150 points.

Prince logged the third-best pole vault of the day at 4.90m (15-09.00) to help him maintain his spot in the top-eight after falling behind a bit following the discus competition and followed the pole vault up with the fifth-best throw in the javelin throw at 47.87m (157-01) to enter the 1,500m in sixth-place. 

Despite an eighth-place finish in the 1,500m, Prince finished ahead of some of the necessary competitors and his time of 4:35.39 moved him into fourth in the overall standings while Sandys' sixth-place finish in the race in 4:34.30 moved him into seventh overall after he bounced back from relatively low marks in the discus and pole vault competitions. 

Oregon's Dakotah Keys was the individual champion, scoring 7,793 points.

It was the second conference point-scoring finish for both Prince and Sandys and the first time they achieved the finish in the same season, giving the Sun Devil men seven points heading into next weekend.  

The Sun Devils will be back in action in Eugene next weekend with the main portion of the Pac-12 Championships, set to begin Saturday, May 12 at 10 a.m. PST and continuing throughout the day.