Crystal Hung and Alex Zolpys are turning class projects into new consumer products in an innovative UBC course - photo by Martin Dee
UBC Reports | Vol. 55 | No. 5 | May
Graduating with a patent
By Basil Waugh
UBC graduating student Crystal Hung hopes a reality television show will help turn a class project into a successful new consumer product.
The Sauder School of Business student entrepreneur is co-creator of EasyPlug, a magnetic adapter designed to prevent injuries and protect electronic devices. When someone trips on its cord, the accessory automatically releases from its power source. “That means no flying laptops, no people tripping on cords,” the 23-year-old says.
Next month, Hung and five students will pitch the concept to the Vantec Angels, a group of Vancouver-area technology entrepreneurs. The team has also been guaranteed an audition with CBC’s popular venture-capitalist television show, Dragon’s Den.
“I am excited to see how far we can take this,” says Hung, who has already won more than $15,000 at Canada’s largest venture business competitions, including Toronto’s TieQuest and Vancouver’s Enterprize. She and her team have created a patent and company to support EasyPlug, which is compatible with most home electronics, from vacuum cleaners to power tools.
Another UBC student invention turning heads is Purelito, a portable water purifier for travelers. Using ultraviolet (UV) radiation technology – the same as Vancouver’s new Seymour-Capilano water filtration plant – the hockey puck-sized device enables travelers to quickly purify potentially unsafe drinking water.
“You pour water in the top and it comes out treated and safe,” says Purelito co-creator Alex Zolpys, a graduating UBC Faculty of Applied Science student who will also present to the Vantec Angels. “There’s no pumping or stirring in chemicals, it’s hands-free.”
In addition to hard work, Hung and Zolpys credit their successes to an innovative undergraduate UBC class, New Venture Design. Established in 2005, the two-term course brings together business and engineering students to create new consumer products and bring them to market.
“Unlike many courses that involve business plans around theoretical ideas, this course requires that teams generate a patentable idea and take it forward as a real new business start up,” says Prof. Paul Cubbon, Sauder School of Business. “This involves prototyping, seeking seed funding and much more.”
“Getting interdisciplinary teams together, with a mix of technical, finance, marketing and communication skills is a great experience for the students,” says UBC Engineering Prof. Philippe Kruchten. “It is an effective way to prepare them for their careers, and as we continue to see, it can even result in enterprise creation.”
Last year, one of the class teams, PeerFX, was offered $250,000 of venture capital funding on CBC’s Dragon’s Den for its peer-to-peer currency exchange system. And the energy monitoring product of another class team, Energy Aware, will be included in the Olympic Village during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
“This is the most time I’ve put into anything, but it was totally worth it,” Hung says. “It has been such a great learning experience.”
New Venture Design has received financial support from UBC alumnus and Vancouver entrepreneur Ken Spencer, co-founder of Creo.
Team EasyPlug members include: Crystal Hung, Max Miller, Ryan Fetterly, Jay Jagpal, Shane Miller-Tait and Greg Wong. Team Purelito: Alex Zolpys, Sherry Ding, Alastair McKee, Sherry Chen, Graham Smith and Anika De la Flor.
For more engineering graduate profiles, visit http://www.apsc.ubc.ca/stars/congregation08-09/index.php