Noah Hoffman shows his team's temperature-based alarm clock invention at a recent HWeekend.
Although the Inventors Enterprise student organization is new (founded in 2016), the entrepreneurial spirit and hands-on learning has been at the root of education in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
The club itself, however, was a grass roots effort founded by a group of students who initially met at a member’s house to develop prototypes. Now an officially recognized student organization, the club is co-sponsored by the College of Engineering and the College of Business.
“The mission is to help encourage and develop an environment of invention here at Oregon State,” said Noah Hoffman, electrical and computer engineering student and vice president of the club. “We are fostering the idea of a community where people can freely share things that they're excited about.”
The project work emulates a job environment. Club members form multi-disciplinary teams based on their interest and skills and submit project proposals. Throughout the course of the year they give progress presentations and end with formal business pitches.
We are fostering the idea of a community where people can freely share things that they're excited about.
The club supports up to five projects a year at a maximum of $200. Last year, their inventions included Smart Lab Goggles featuring a heads-up display that reports readings on measurements like temperature and radiation levels.
The club provides opportunities for students from various majors to collaborate with individuals who may have vastly different backgrounds and skills. The members include students from nearly all engineering majors as well as from chemistry, physics, botany, business and marketing.
Hoffman has found that the projects often pair well with what he is learning in the classroom. Recently, he had been trying to solve a problem for weeks on his own when the topic came up in class.
“It made so much more sense to me having both the personal experience and the abstract knowledge,” Hoffman said.
Don Heer, co-advisor to the club and instructor for electrical and computer engineering, believes the experiences students have by participating in clubs and other activities are an essential part of their education at Oregon State.
“If you can synthesize your knowledge and physically make something happen, you are so much better prepared than someone who just has a lot of knowledge. That’s what we are really good at here at Oregon State, is providing our students with those kinds of hands-on experiences,” Heer said.
One of the club’s activities is to organize and run a hardware hackathon called HWeekend every term. The event brings together students from across campus to invent new products and build prototypes in just one weekend. Students have the opportunity to work closely with mentors from industry and academia and compete for prizes.
The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science supports 14 clubs including the Association of Computing Machinery, Engineers Without Borders, Information Technology Club, Linux Users Group, National Society of Black Engineers, and Robotics.