Shocker Startup allows students to compete, create, innovate

Marissa Campbell

As Wichita State President John Bardo has increased his vision of the university with Innovation Campus, some students say they think the new buildings and projects are not aimed toward them and their majors.

Seniors Hannah Hund, a biomedical engineering major, and LaRissa Lawrie, a communication major, decided they wanted to create a group that involved all majors and helped students create businesses and products. The duo decided to create Shocker Startup as an entrepreneurship and innovation organization to help provide funding, training, mentors and networking events to students and connect them to the Wichita community in May 2015 with the help of WSU engineering educator/lecturer Gary Brooking.

“We both had our own reasons for wanting to start this group,” Hund said. “I had just gone to a big maker-fair at Washington University in St. Louis and I saw that they had this student acceleration program where the students helped each other create businesses and I realized that we had a big group of students interested in this, but no one to support them, so then I ran into Larissa and realized she had a similar goal.”

Lawrie began searching the business side of communications by researching companies that were started by college students such as Facebook and GoPro. This led her to discover that most of these companies were founded in startup groups, and decided WSU needed something similar.

After the two decided to create the group, they were nominated to be University Innovation Fellows (UIF), which increased their influence on their project. UIF allows students to receive training regarding design thinking and rapid prototyping to improve entrepreneurship curriculum across campus. These students were trained by Stanford University and funded by the National Science Foundation in order to participate in different events and further their studies, especially through Shocker Startup.

“Our goal is to bring entrepreneurship to any major or discipline,” Hund said. “Students from all colleges are welcome.”

Through UIF and Shocker Startup, Hund and Lawrie became aware of a student competition at Texas A&M called “Innovate Against Zika.” Over 48 hours, Hund and Lawrie and many students across the nation were brought together to try to solve the problem with the virus. Students were given the problem, the tools needed to solve the problem, as well as experts in each field in order to help the students. 

Hund and Lawrie placed third  which made them want to bring a similar concept to WSU.

“In the spring, we’re hoping to host a similar event, like an innovation weekend, at our new Maker-space where students can come and solve a real-world problem like we had to,” Lawrie said. “Not only was the project a great experience for us, but it helped us figure out how an innovation weekend is done so now we can host one ourselves.”

They are also planning to host a series of “Wichitalks” that brings professionals in their respective fields to campus to discuss their careers and teach students about different opportunities throughout Wichita. 

“Shocker Startup is run by students in every college, and we’re putting on these events and talks so students from multiple disciplines can be involved,” Lawrie said. “We want to provide an avenue for students to practice entrepreneurship and realize their potential.”