Engineering and Entrepreneurship: LavaLab

Michael Thorson Entrepreneurship, Michael, Viterbi Orgs 0 Comments

Entering my Junior year this semester, I felt nervous. I was nervous that by studying Aerospace Engineering, one of the most specific majors in Viterbi, I was locking myself into a very narrow career path: immediately launching into a big company after graduation to build rockets and satellites. Obviously revolutionizing the air and space industry at Boeing or NASA still sounds exciting to me, but what if I decide I don’t like the corporate lifestyle later in life? What are my options? Unfortunately I can’t build a multi-stage space shuttle alone, so after a few minor life crises this summer, I decided to research some alternative options.

Eventually, I ended up finding LavaLab, a student run tech startup incubator that groups engineering, computer science, business, and design students into teams for a semester. The groups goal is simple: design, prototype, and sell a consumer product with your team. What attracted me to LavaLab was that it allowed me to pursue my excitement for engineering while working with students from diverse backgrounds. The best part? It’s through USC so if your product doesn’t sell, there’s no risk of failure like there is in the real world.

At the start of semester, I applied and was accepted to LavaLab and at the first meeting, the club’s mentors immediately gave talks on how to pursue some seemingly ridiculous technology and potentially make a career out of it. It was exactly what I was looking for.

My LavaLab class at our first social meeting. Can't complain with a picnic at the beach!

My LavaLab class at our first social meeting. Can’t complain with a picnic at the beach!

LavaLab was a place for students to be unrealistic and it helps them find the resources they need to make out-of-the-box ideas realities. In the past, students have created things like a skateboard lock and a next generation developed social music sharing app and pitched them to real investors from companies like Snapchat, Google, and Facebook in an attempt to market and fund their ideas.

Matt and Alana pitching their food service app GrubBucks to investors on pitch nigh

Matt and Alana pitching their food service app GrubBucks to investors on pitch nigh

In essence, LavaLab is a reminder that with enough determination and entrepreneurship skills students can find a career in anything they put their mind to.

If carrying a product from drawing board to the marketplace isn’t enough to convince you of how exciting entrepreneurship is, LavaLab also invites industry leaders to give exclusive lectures on business management, tech product development, and marketing. In the past, they have had Google Senior Software Engineers, Venture Capitalists, and even the one and only Elon Musk!

Elon Musk with the Alex, the ex LavaLab president

Elon Musk with the Alex, the ex LavaLab president

Bottom line, LavaLab is a supportive community for students like me to find alternative career paths like entrepreneurship and rapid prototyping if we decide to switch it up down the road.

If entrepreneurship or LavaLab sounds interesting to you keep an eye out for the application at the start of every semester and make sure to check out other tech startup focussed organizations like SparkSC, 3D4E, and VRSC as well!

Michael Thorson

Michael Thorson

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