OPEN 2017 Conference

During March 23-25, 2017 I participated in Open 2017 (VentureWell conference) with a group of other professor of the UPRM Pathways to Innovation group. We were also joined by Blue Horizon a start-up from UPRM that participated of the Open Minds part of the conference. Our delegation participated in the following panels: VentureWell Grants and Resources, Developing Your Assessment Strategy: Objectives, metrics and collection procedures, and Entrepreneurial Mindset.

This video summarizes the atmosphere at an Open conference:

This conference is a great way to share best practices between universities that have an active innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Here we validate our work and get teaching ideas to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

The UPRM Pathways to Innovation group was recognized with two Awards: Curricular Innovation Award, and Student Engagement Award. These are the result of various projects in our innovation and entrepreneurship eco-system: New Venture Design Experience, Innovation Tracks, and Idea Platform.

You can be informed of the UPRM Innovation and Entrepreneurship ecosystem at UPRM by following us in Facebook or Twitter.

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UPRM Alumni and PanaWest Creator, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, educates NVDE Students on Crowdfunding

Juan Carlos Rodriguez, UPRM Alumni and Founder of PanaWest, spoke to NVDE students about his crowdfunding experience on March 1st, 2017. Juan Carlos is a crowdfunding veteran. He has done two crowdfunding campaigns, first in KickStarter, then in AntRocket.

He explained the steps he took in the before, during, and after process of the crowdfunding campaign. He shared many stories related to his crowdfunding experiences.

Students were very curious and asked question after question, as they have a midterm project to design the marketing plan for a crowdfunding campaign and to actually create the video of a crowdfunding campaign.

He shared tips on:

-how to make a great video.

-how to distribute time efficiently.

-the length of a campaign.

-how to effectively use social media.

-how to choose a crowdfunding platform and their differences.

-and many others.

See Wonderer’s Food Video here

This was a good experience for the students as they got to see how another “Colegial” was able to successfully conduct a Crowdfunding campaign for his own start-up. They could relate well to Juan Carlos in terms of age and goals, which was very helpful.

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Collision of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, Parallel 18 Invades UPRM

Are you a startup company who’s ready to go global? Is your technology innovative or disruptive? Do you have a working prototype or final product? Have you been incorporated for less than three years?  If this describes your team, Parallel 18 wants to help you accelerate your venture. An initiative based in the heart of Puerto Rico’s Metropolitan area, Parallel 18 seeks to help companies rise from validated ideas into globalized startups, as they explained during their visit to the UPRM Campus on January 26, 2017.

Parallel 18’s offer is hard to top, with $40k in equity-free funding and access to a co-working space where several successful entrepreneurs work together on a daily basis, their program is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and students alike. But beyond being a very attractive equity-free funding prospect, their program brings a very much needed opportunity for Puerto Rican and international applicants: high-level coaching and networking with people who have gone through the process of bringing up a startup successfully. The trials any startup must experience are often better understood by those who have gone through them before, and being able to work with these people is alone worth the risk of taking the challenge that Parallel 18 brings to the table. Yes, not all is peaches and cream; their motto “#workhardplaytropical” takes the ‘work hard’ part very seriously. For starters, you must have commercially validated your product through sales, and you and your team must be available to devote yourselves to your idea full time to be considered.

The full-time commitment might prove to be a bit hard for students to apply to, which is why they have organized an internship program. Through their internship program, Parallel 18 brings an invaluable opportunity for students of any discipline who wish to learn and understand not only how a startup works, but what makes them tic. This latter point was brought home by the visit of two entrepreneurs who are currently taking advantage of the opportunity. One of the companies, Brands of Puerto Rico, specializes in helping local entrepreneurs market their culturally inspired artisanal products through a webpage where they can easily be bought and shipped anywhere in the world. As simple as it sounds, their business is pulling at the heartstrings of an ever-growing diaspora who yearn for a piece of home, an inspiring reason to keep on. On the other hand, the cofounder of Be Better Hotels, Calixto Carbone, shared what it meant to be an entrepreneur, i.e. what differentiates someone who has a great idea from someone who decides to bring it to life. Long hours and small pay are sometimes required of an entrepreneur; therefore having a passionate team is a must. All in all, as Calixto later remarked, “a man with an idea is a crazy man, until the moment he succeeds”. His final message was a clear call to action: do not reinvent the wheel, rather seek to use it to innovate.

Parallel 18’s West Invasion was only the beginning of a great collaboration between the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem of the West Side of the Island, with the UPRM at its epicenter, and the very solid one of the Metropolitan Area. It’s our turn to step up to the plate, and change the world.


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NVDE Meets P&G, and First NVDE Cohort Alumni

The NVDE students received an unexpected visit from Procter & Gamble (P&G) engineers and obtained an expert insight on how to do observations and customer interviews. The P&G representatives gave examples of how they develop new products listening carefully to their customers and evaluating areas of new opportunity. With this, the students understood how important is for them to do effective and large amount of observations so they could really comprehend the problem and their future client. However, observations do not stop there.

P&G uses their upstream observations so engineers can develop a minimum valuable product (MVP); with which they do even more interviews to observe the customer’s behavior. The students must do a prototype as a final class project, and thanks to P&G they now know the importance and relevance of this MVP. At the end of the conference, the students asked questions about the company and their observation process. P&G even talked about some of their products and the difficult iterative process in the background that is not seen in the store’s shelf.

They also received a visit from Ilka Rodriguez, a NVDE graduate that expanded her experience by joining StartingBloc, a fellowship dedicated to connect leaders around the world that want to contribute their ideas and entrepreneurship to all beings. She gave her perspective of the New Venture Design Experience and how to continue with the project once finished the class.

With these two visits the NVDE participants are ready to continue their journey to observe, brainstorm, and create.

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NVDE Gets Out of the Building!

The seven teams participating in the New Venture Design Experience went out to the real world and conducted more than 140 interviews to investigate and validate their design challenges. These interviews included not only individual observations, but techniques learned in class such as expert interviews, self-immersion, self-documentation, and so on. The teams created their own set of questions using the method of “Open Specific – Go Broad – Probe Deep” for which they adapted what they wanted to learn regarding their design challenge. The participants presented their most relevant observations together with examples of how they conducted their interviews and their experiences doing them.

The first team explored the area of improving the lifestyles of the ADD community. They conducted small experiments within themselves where they tried to focus in one task while being distracted, so they could feel similar to a person diagnosed with ADD. The second team investigated how to motivate individuals to learn how to harvest their own food.  The third team focused on looking for ways Puerto Ricans can buy more local products. They investigated the existent local products and their availability in supermarkets. The forth team explored how they can improve local tourism and motivate people to explore more of what the island has to offer. The fifth team investigated a way to improve the communication between the deaf community and health care professionals. The sixth team intends to improve the transportation inside the university. They observed and used current methods such as bicycle, trollies, and others to understand from a first person perspective the current challenges. The seventh team investigated how they can make elderly citizens feel more productive. This “Out of the Building” experience does not end here; it is just beginning. But now that the teams have real life information, they are ready to start classifying their findings and brainstorm for new and innovative solutions.

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NVDE at Weekend Design Challenge 2016

The New Venture Design Experience (NVDE) started its second year with the welcoming of the Weekend Design Challenge (WDC). 41 students from all UPRM faculties and a professor from the Humanities Department participated in conferences and hands-on activities to learn how to conduct interviews, make a Business Model Canvas, apply design thinking, develop a prototype, and create a marketable pitch presentation. It started with Aldo Briano, cofounder of Yiftee, talking about his experience in the evolution of a start-up and giving key advice on how to develop an idea to a reality using opportunities provided by the university.

Then, the challenge was presented: “How to improve people’s evening routines?” The participants had to apply what they learned getting out of the building and interviewing people in order to investigate opportunities in this area. Each group compiled this information and found a problem to solve. By using brainstorming methods they develop over 50 ideas per group and selected one. The seven groups then created their business model canvas and prototypes, which they presented to a judge panel at the end. Here are their concepts:

Eco Tour – An app that shows touristic places in Puerto Rico with their budget for those who want an adventurous evening.

Save My Time – An app that calculates users’ free time and helps coordinate their activities and rest time.

Energy Fitness – An adaptable exercising machine that powers different add-ons to do chores, like cooking.

Jugglist – An organization app that can be shared between the family to coordinate kids’ transportation, food, and additional activities.

MMS – A money saving app that can help users manage their money and distribute it appropriately.

Lifestyle Center – An establishment with a gym, food court, laundry, tutoring, and recreational area that can help parents have time with their kids.

Clean War Bots – Small robots that kids can control in order to play challenges like a video game, but also clean the house.

The students received a glimpse of the NVDE and the different topics they will be learning through the year. This seven groups will now have the opportunity to find their own design challenges and investigate areas of opportunity to develop what can be the next big thing!

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How important is the Design event in Formula SAE?

In this post I’m going to discuss the importance of the design event in Formula SAE competitions.  It will start with a brief explanation of the design event, and tips on how to do well on the event. Using the results from the past competitions answer the question:

How important is the design event in Formula SAE?

Now lets start with: What is the design event?

The design event is part of the static events at Formula SAE competitions.  Its purpose is to judge the students engineering effort into the design of the vehicle.  As stated by the rules:

“The car that illustrates the best use of engineering to meet the design goals and the best understanding of the design by the team members will win the design event.”

Each team has approximately 30 minutes for their presentation and they are divided into:

  • Set up – 3 minutes: for placing your car (in finished condition), students and any other materials for presentation in the judging area.
  • Introduction – 1 to 4 minutes: where the team can present the car, their goals, and mention whatever they want to emphasis about the car.
  • Judges Q&A 25 to 28 minutes: Here the judges will ask the students the fundamentals about the car, its design, governing physics, and validation.
  • After the Q & A the team has to let clear the area quickly for the next one in line.

Tips on how to prepare for the design event:

  • Design report and Design spec sheet: the judges will read this information before the design event.  Consider the design report as the resume of your car, it should emphasize the strong design parts of the vehicle.
  • One student per judge: a minimum of one student at all times per judge; the judges want to see that the team has an understanding of the vehicle and score less teams where one student answers all the questions.  I would recommend at least 2 students per judge.
  • Presentation material availability: have your data, analysis and everything else that you might want to show the judges near and available.  Here is where posters, binders and parts prototypes help to explain your car to the judges.
  • Questions the judges want you to answer: has a document with these questions (find it here).
  • End of Design Q&A: leave pictures of your car with the judges, it is allowed by rule C5.14 and helps the judges remember your car.

Now lets move to the question: How important is the design event for the overall Formula SAE competition?

endurance vs design fsae

I started by collecting results from Formula SAE competitions in the USA (a total of 12 competitions between 2006 and 2013).  From the results collected, design, endurance, and overall scores where extracted.

First the data of one competition is explored using a scatter plot of the endurance vs design score.


The plot above shows visually signs of a linear relationship between the scores.  To investigate further the mean of the endurance scores is plotted vs the design scores below.


Here a linear relationship between design and endurance score is more visible.  In order to confirm formally this linear relationship the Pearson correlation coefficient was calculated between each of these scores.  This coefficient measures the linear relationship between two variables.  And here the variables used were design and endurance scores and then design and overall scores.


To summarize, all correlation coefficients were significant (p < 0.05) with most of them attaining higher significance (p<0.01).  The mean of the correlation between  design and endurance score is 0.484 and the mean between design and overall score is 0.730.  Unfortunately, there is no established threshold value for the Pearson correlation coefficient to establish a linear relationship between two variables, here due to the nature of all the uncertainty and complexity of the competition a perfect correlation was not expected.  However, there are a number of conclusions that can be extracted from the data.  First, since the correlations are positive this means that the design event score is proportional to the endurance and overall score.

Knowing the possibility of a linear relationship between design and endurance, and design and overall score, linear regression is used to find the contribution of the design score to these events.  The linear regression used the design score as the independent variable and endurance or total score as the dependent variable (see equations below).

Endurance_{score} = \beta_0 + \beta_1 Design_{score}

 Overal_{score} = \beta_0 + \beta_1 Design_{score}

The Beta coefficients are summarize in the following table, with the significant of Beta 1.


RegressionFSAEsummary EnduranceRegressionFSAEsummary Total

The Beta 1 coefficient quantifies how much the endurance and overall score is increased by increasing the design score by 1 point.  For the endurance score between all the competitions reported here for an increase of 1 point in design a mean of 1.695 points are increased in endurance; in the overall score for each point increase in design, a mean of 5.343 points are increased in the overall score.  A clear picture is established when revising the standardized Beta 1 coefficient, which measures the effect or contribution of the independent variable (design score) to the dependent variable (endurance or overall score).  On average the design event score can predict about 50% of the endurance score and 73% of the overall score.

Throughout the discussion of the correlation results it was assumed that the design event was the causation for the other scores.  This was assumed because a team that was able to prove the design judges that their design is correct and meets the competition goals is the one that will perform better at the dynamic events, like endurance.  In the opposite way, a team doing well at the dynamic events will also be likely to have a good score in the design event, but this is because in order to have good dynamic scores, teams have to do their homework and design correctly the car for the competition objectives.  This post when referring to design is referring to good design that also involves manufacturing and testing!

With this knowledge, teams on all levels should understand that the tenth of a second that they needed or the saving of 10 pounds (4.53 kg) can be better found at the design stage. Give the design competition the importance that it has.  Think of it as if were 750 points out of the 1,000 points of the competition because according to the numbers shown before that statement is not that far from true.

I would like to know your thoughts, opinions or stories about the design event and how it influenced the dynamic events.


PS:  The idea for this post was a product of good conversations at the Formula SAE Michigan 2013 and Baja SAE RIT 2013 competitions.  In the conversations the question of how important is the design event was brought to my attention and I try to answer it here to some extent.

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NVDE at Expo Ideas 2016

As part of the many different innovation initiatives the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez Campus, this past April 28th the students in the NVDE program were part of this semester’s Expo Ideas event. Expo Ideas is an event held every semester within the campus grounds, in which students who aim to become future business owners, are able to interact with the public and potential investors in order to obtain actual feedback. Seeing that this activity is perfectly aligned with the objectives of the NVDE program, the students were encouraged to participate and present their innovative projects at this event.

Some of the students said that the experience helped them validate the ideas that they were developing and also take into consideration different aspects of their projects that were not in their immediate purview. They also mentioned that people who were very interested in the product, gave their information so that they could be contacted when the product was ready for sale.

Overall the Expo Ideas experience was definitely invaluable for the students because it allowed them to interact with their possible consumers and investors and it also proved to be a great feedback medium.

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Product Development Economics

Product development economics is the topic of the course this week. As a means of breaking the ice Prof. José E. Lugo quickly challenges the students by asking them to think about market availability and product cost. In doing so, the students were tasked to work quickly and answer the question and also explain the course of action they would have taken. The students’ proposals were about 3 to 4, in favor of launching the product to one platform instead of delaying the launch so that it would work for all available platforms. Arguments circled around topics such as copyrights, exposure, and clientele. In the end, they learned that the information provided in the challenge was not enough to accurately justify one decision or the other. In order to accurately determine which path to take we need to take into account the cost associated to each decision.

Pursuing the cost topic further, Dr. Lugo presented different scenarios that they could face such as parts selection (High-Quality custom made v.s. Easily Available Parts) and quantitative vs qualitative analysis. After this, Dr. Lugo presented the steps to follow in order to do an economic analysis process which are:

  1. Build a Base-Case Financial Model
    1. Compute the Net Present Value of the Cash Flows
  2. Support Go/No Go Decisions
  3. Perform a Sensitivity analysis – “What If?”
  4. Use sensitivity analysis to understand project trade-offs
  5. Consider the influence of the Qualitative Factor on Project Success

Each point was considered on a case by case basis using examples from real-life occurrences.

Now, it is Lic. Miriel Perez’s turn to present the Theory behind Contracts and Obligations to all the students in order for them to learn about the different documents they have access to in order to protect themselves. In defining an obligation, she mentioned that there are many different aspects ranging from social to contractual. In terms of what a contract is, she discussed that it arises at the instant one or more persons decide to partake in an obligation. Using written examples of what the students should emulate at the moment they decide to create an agreement, she exhibited the different concepts explained previously. In the Q&A section, as expected, many questions concerning the status of the students’ projects popped up and were answered on a case-by-case basis depending on the standpoint, status and progress of each and every project.

With all this new and exciting information, we can expect a further development of the projects in the presented direction in the near future.

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Summit on Global Sustainability in Engineering Education


So what is sustainability? The simple definition that I like is: sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely. Sustainability has three main pillars: social, economic, and environmental. This last one is the more commonly addressed by society in general. However, our own actions have an impact as big as, if not more, than the MPG of the car we drive.

What was the Summit on Global Sustainability in Engineering Education? This was a meeting at James Madison University that brought together experts in sustainability and engineering education from the Americas. The Summit balanced presentations, panels, and working activities.  The organizers guided the participants through the How we are including sustainability in engineering education, What is Sustainability, and Where Sustainability education is going?

Hackathon for sustainability engineering education: during the Summit participants had time to work and hack their institutions, planning engaging learning activities to promote sustainability engineering.  We were the first users of the engaging learning template, which I found very helpful. My project aims to develop a global series of Global Pop-up classes on sustainability. If interested, please email me!

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