EEP, ELS Offers Students Insights Into Success

November 16, 2007

In hopes of offering students the opportunity to build a solid foundation for the future, the NC State University Engineering Entrepreneurs Program gives engineering and non-engineering majors alike hands-on education that reaches beyond the textbook and immerses them into the real-world processes behind new product and business development.

"The Engineering Entrepreneurs Program is very good, - very exceptional," program participant and NC State graduate student Jared Everett said. "But there is still this gap that needs to be bridged between the technical understanding that you learn in the classroom and the actual, practical business and industrial knowledge. The EEP functions to give you that."

A key component of the program, the Entrepreneurs' Lecture Series gives distinguished NC State alumni and partners an opportunity to return to campus and share the secrets of their successes.

On Monday, Nov. 19, ELS organizers will welcome "serial entrepreneur" Steve Yauch ('87) to Centennial Campus to talk about making the seemingly giant leap into entrepreneurship. Yauch is the president and owner of Carolina Electronic Assemblers, an electronic contract manufacturing company he founded in 2000.

Yauch is also the founder of industrial control distribution and integration company CMC Sencon, and his most recent start-up is a 25,000 square-foot order fulfillment and service center designed to handle the logistics of a large medical device supplier. He's also involved in several Johnston County (N.C.) commercial real-estate endeavors, including the renovation of a 1900's-era, cotton-spinning mill.

"When I was at N.C. State eons ago, this program didn't exist," he said. "I think had it existed - although I don't think my path would have been different - I think my path would have been much more condensed because I would have not been as afraid as I was to go out and do the entrepreneurial thing."

Past speakers include Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS, Neal Hunter, founder of Cree, Inc. and Barbara Mulkey, president and CEO of Mulkey Engineers & Consultants - all NC State graduates.

The Engineering Entrepreneurs Program began in 1993 to help students develop skills in management, finance, marketing, product development and entrepreneurship - all essential in forming an idea into a successful business. It's been a key to NC State's entrepreneurial success - the university has launched more than 60 companies and holds more than 500 active patents.

"I spent a lot of years staring 'over the cliff,' deciding if I wanted to jump off," Yauch said. "If I had been able to go out in the real world and see the success and understand what it took, I would have been able to make a very informed decision as to whether to do that."

Since 1993, more than 450 students have completed the EEP, turning creative concepts into marketable products. In addition to their courseloads, students participate in the Entrepreneurs' Lecture Series (ELS) as well as twice-yearly field trips to companies both locally and in Silicon Valley, CA, including Google, Apple and others to see how the knowledge they gain in the classrooms of NC State apply in the real world.

"I think what students pull from the lectures and the visits is a level of confidence once they are done with the class," said Dr. Stephen J. Walsh, the EEP's entrepreneur-in-residence and a teaching associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. "They see that you don't have to be a 4.0 person to be the next Bill Gates, and learn what it's like to really create something and get other people pumped up about what you are doing."

Yauch will speak this Monday, Nov. 19, at 4:30 p.m. in Engineering Building II (Room 1025) on NC State's Centennial Campus. Registration is free, open to the public and available online.

By Dave Pond, Web Communication, NC State University

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