3-Spark

RISE has been a fantastic venue for both 2012 and 2013 and has contributed in significant, but very different ways, to the growth of our company.

2012 was a fun, no pressure environment to talk about the embedded 3D printing sensors as a research area, which was the extent of the technical stage at that point. It was a forum to speak and meet with graduate students, faculty, and judges from many different backgrounds. RISE was a great middle ground between a company Trade Show and a research conference where you have some people who know your research area in depth and some who have completely different backgrounds. Being able to present and discuss with such a variety of attendees refined my presentation style very quickly how to communicate the impact of the core idea. Being able to present your research effectively and maintaining research integrity is also important to disseminate the work to people outside of the lab. The event itself was no-pressure, but the two weeks leading up to it was a mad dash to make as much progress as possible to present. Solving one of the core scientific challenges of the sensor work actually occurred in the lab around 1:30am the day before posters were due to the graphics office.

Winning the Best Graduate Research award was really the big break for what would become 3-Spark because we shot up to pursue the Catalyst Entrepreneurial Immersion seed funding program. The discussions and milestones that followed in the months afterwards are what allowed us to re-evaluate the best product model, form the company, and begin work on our first product: a hardware printer device which could build the sensors.

RISE 2013 was another fun, low-pressure environment where we could test drive the process of setting up a larger booth at an EXPO. You quickly realize how many small things are key for power, transport, etc. and the subsequent notes will make sure we are much more prepared when going to future trade shows. If presenting students are encouraged to be creative then they will have more fun with it as well. Presenters should consider bringing material samples, hosting live demos, using tablets with videos, animations, and simulations of what they are working on to engage the audience as much as possible. Think of how fun it is to walk around a kids’ science fair. Finding creative solutions in these kinds of venues bring a lot of confidence because you enjoy more what you do.