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Entrepreneurship Club Sparks Waves of Innovation

Nicole Patterson

Student hearing aid team

“I have always enjoyed creating and building things, so when I heard about the possibility of the fabrication of this hearing aid, I knew I could be beneficial to the project,” said Sarah Purdy, C’24, who is working alongside Mitchell Gallo, C’23, MBA’24, and Grace Frizzell, C’24, to obtain a patent for an adaptable hearing device—an idea first floated at an Entrepreneurship Club meeting.

garth_headshot-in-text.jpgAssociate Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Palmieri Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE) Garth Patterson, Ph.D., says “the club is focused on idea formation and direct action.” Typically, each member is asked to pitch a new idea each month. Everyone votes on the best idea and the winner receives a $50 gift card. The execution of the idea is focused on self-evaluation and team building, Patterson says. “Students define what their own strengths are and then look for team members to balance their strengths,” he explained. The meetings provide a unique opportunity for students to set aside time to practice thinking of ideas, learn how to articulate and evaluate them, assess what’s necessary for implementation and reimagine possibility.  

Gallo, a graduate student who plays golf, has first-hand experience on how a good idea can change everything. In addition to working on developing this hearing aid technology, he is also part of the team at Ascent Sporting Innovations that received a patent in August 2023 for its temperature-regulating insole. Together with the Palmieri Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE), the students and alumni are learning valuable lessons in leadership, innovation and teamwork. Gallo is currently reading Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great which prioritizes disciplined people, thought and action—the same book many in the Mount community were invited to read during the drafting of the university’s strategic plan.

“It’s a true group project,” Patterson said. The day they had their ah-ha moment, he made a statement about needing a hearing aid for his specific type of hearing loss. “Now the team has developed the mathematical approach to dealing with complex waveforms and are currently demonstrating the efficacy of the system,” he said.

Frizzell, who studies biology and computer science, realized there was a market for those underserved by conventional hearing aid technology—and she wanted to help “develop something more customizable and accommodative of a more diverse set of needs and requirements.” After graduation, she plans to seek a master’s degree in computer science and start working in the biotechnology sector on projects like the hearing aid device they are building. She is currently reading Carl Sagan’s book Contact, which some have interpreted as the astronomer’s unexpected lesson in faith.

Purdy, a student-athlete on the track and field team, studies mathematics and chemistry. Her research deals with sonic levitation of water droplets. She has been learning invaluable lessons through the process of bringing this idea to life. “Time management, communication and accountability are the main lessons I feel I have learned through the process of building our company,” she said. She chose the Mount because she saw how willing professors were to mentor students and help them learn and grow. Post graduation, she plans to pursue a career in research of aerospace materials to improve the performance and endurance of materials commonly used in the fabrication of aircraft.

All three students agree Patterson has made a positive impact on their education. “He always pushed me to be a better version of myself,” Purdy said. “He’s been so helpful in informing the technical design of our ideas,” Frizzell shared. “Dr. Patterson is one of the most unselfish and most willing to help people that I have ever met,” Gallo asserted. “He also has vast knowledge and business experience to go along with his willingness to help—which is a perfect combination.”

Patterson founded Griffin Analytical Technologies, later acquired by FLIR Systems, Inc., and was a principal investigator on multiple projects including several Small Business Innovation Research awards, one of which resulted in a Tibbetts Award, named after Roland Tibbetts of the National Science Foundation, recognizing the promise and models of excellence in high technology. Patterson has been awarded more than a dozen United States patents and several international patents, all focused on mass spectrometry development; he’s widely published, loves mentoring students and leads the Mount’s brewing club.

“There are a couple of ideas that we hope to be able to write about next year that directly evolved from these idea formation meetings,” he added with a smile. While the trio continue to work toward obtaining their patent, they have already achieved success by embodying the Mount’s mission, or as Collins writes: “For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.”

The Entrepreneurship Club is supported by the PCE, made possible through a generous $1 million donation from Mount alumni Paul Palmieri, C’92, and Diane Loiello Palmieri, C’83. PCE is an innovative student resource that provides skill-building, mentorship and real-world experiences vital to the development of creative critical thinking. The center and its experiential learning program build upon the Mount’s liberal arts core curriculum to assist students in identifying problems, generating ideas and creating practical solutions.

Nicole Patterson