Two Barrett students receive grants from Changemaker Central @ ASU to fund their entrepreneurial endeavors
Two students in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University have received support for their innovative entrepreneurial ideas from Changemaker Central @ ASU.
Both recently won grants from the organization that promotes student involvement in community service, social change, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Tallin Speek will put his funds toward creating specially designed wetsuits for adaptive divers, while Jasmine Chase’s grant will help fund the design of a device to make DIY laser printer toner with recycled plastic at home.
Both Speek and Chase are sophomores who attended the T.W. Lewis Center Entrepreneur Bootcamp last fall, where they learned entrepreneurial and networking skills. They participated in a pitch session in which they shared their ideas with a panel of professionals and entrepreneurs who gave constructive advice.
The bootcamp was led by Courtney Klein, a Barrett, The Honors College alumna and the co-founder of Seed Spot, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting social entrepreneurs.
“Courtney really emphasized the value of sharing our ideas with others and actively seeking opportunities for feedback and collaboration,” Chase said. “She helped me realize that in order to become successful, my idea needs other minds involved - not only to provide feedback on my idea, but also to provide validation that the problem I've identified is a real problem that doesn't just impact me.”
Chase, who is majoring in mechanical engineering with a focus on energy and environmental studies, grew up in Hawaii. She saw for herself just how bad plastic pollution had gotten in the world. Throughout high school, Chase conducted several research projects focused on plastic pollution, including an analysis of the amount of micro-plastic beads in various consumer toothpaste, body wash, and face wash brands; a study of how plastics accumulate on Oahu beaches; and a study of plastic degradation on Oahu beaches.
“I was lucky to be able to present the findings of this research at local, state, and ultimately international science and engineering fairs,” she said. “All of my research pointed toward why plastic is a wicked problem in the first place. We're using too much plastic without enough thought into how it can be recycled and repurposed after its lifetime ends.”
However, these science fair projects required the creation of trifold boards to present her research. That, in turn, entailed a lot of printouts. Printer toner itself is made up of tiny granulated plastic particles. It’s also very expensive because there is no way to make it yourself - you have to buy it from established companies.
This led Chase to the question that’s at the root of her idea: how might we utilize recycled plastics to make DIY printer toner?
“I hope to develop a device that enables people to make their own laser printer toner out of their recyclables,” she said. “Imagine if you could put a plastic water bottle into a machine, have the bottle chopped up into fine little pieces, pigmented, and then be fed into a laser printer cartridge. That's what I'm hoping to develop.”
Chase has been sitting on this idea ever since she had her eureka moment near the end of high school. However, she had always felt nervous to tell people about it for fear of being laughed at. This is where the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp made the biggest difference to her.
“Courtney's human-centered design training and advice throughout the boot camp really encouraged me to grow out of my fear of failure and share my idea with others,” Chase said. “One of my first steps towards doing this was applying for the Changemaker Challenge grant, which I feel incredibly fortunate to have won.”
Chase received $1,000 from Changemaker, which she will put toward the purchase of a laser printer, toner, and prototyping materials that will help her bring her idea to life.
“Participating in the T.W. Lewis Entrepreneur Bootcamp,” Chase said, “gave me the confidence I needed to start working towards my idea.”
Scuba diving has been a part of Speek’s life since before he was born. His father proposed to his mother underwater while scuba diving and they were married beneath more than 200 hammerhead sharks off the coast of Costa Rica. Speek became a certified scuba diver at age 10, and just three years later he met someone who sparked his idea for adaptive wetsuits.
“When I was 13, I was helping certify an adaptive diver named Topher,” said Speek, who is studying mechanical systems engineering at the Polytechnic campus. “Topher is a quadriplegic and is adamant about putting his own wetsuit on without assistance. I watched Topher struggle with a standard wetsuit for upwards of 30 minutes and I knew there had to be better solutions for people like him.”
Divers with various disabilities often have immense difficulties getting into their wetsuits - which are hard enough to get into already. Since certifying Topher, Speek has met many more adaptive divers, some of whom get up two hours early just to get into their wetsuits on their own.
The struggle to get into their wetsuits is all worth it when the gravity that amplifies their disabilities on land falls away under water where the adaptive diver can feel weightless and free.
Tallin wants to design a line of wetsuits called Ascent, which will allow those with physical disabilities like Topher to easily get in and out of their wetsuits. This wetsuit line will be comprised of different suits for specific disabilities while being modular to suit a multitude of individuals.
“The Ascent line utilizes sleeves that open up, allowing the user to place their limb inside and sealing the suit around while maintaining a water tight seal and flexibility,” Speek explained. “In the case of paralysis you cannot use zippers as their skin can get caught in the zipper and they will not feel it until damage has been done to their skin. The line incorporates adaptive diver specific features such as extra padding in high use areas, buoyancy adjustments, and room for catheters.”
Speek received $950 from Changemaker, which he will use to advance the prototyping process. He plans to go into manufacturing by crowdfunding the first production run, and be sustainable via revenue from there on out. He is currently working with a team in Western Australia to prototype the designs. Then he plans to go into manufacturing with a partner in Thailand. He said he is currently in conversations with GoPro to possibly collaborate in the future.
Tallin always keeps his motivation of helping adaptive divers enjoy the water in mind.
“Underwater they are free from the gravity that amplifies their disabilities,” Speek said. “Diving provides incredible mobility and freedom which is truly inspiring.”
Story by Ranjani Venkatakrishnan, who graduated ASU last May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and honors from Barrett, The Honors College. She currently is pursuing a master’s degree at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.