By Naomi Stapleton, news correspondent
Fledgling student group Generate will fuse entrepreneurship and engineering, two of Northeastern’s most dominant fields of study.
Sophomores Bailey Kane and Mina Iskarous created Generate with the Sherman Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship Education at Northeastern.
“There are a lot of really good programs [at Northeastern]… but when we looked, we didn’t find a place specifically for engineers to go to learn about entrepreneurship and increase their skills as what we consider an entrepreneurial engineer,” Iskarous said.
The center gives engineering students an awareness of “product-centered knowledge and learning” as opposed to a business-centered approach, said Shashi Murthy, chemical engineering professor, the center’s founding director and one of Generate’s faculty advisers.
“If you want to start a business that isn’t tied to a tech product or software, you can go to and participate in any number of the events and programs on campus and that could really help you develop the business case, but then what if you wanted to build a prototype?” Murthy said. “That’s the need on the one hand, and then on the other hand you have the opportunity… in the form of well-qualified students.”
Iskarous worked with computer engineering and computer science double major Kane to launch Generate last October. The group aims to help Northeastern students gain both technical design skills and entrepreneurial expertise. They will work on projects from a variety of sources within Northeastern, including students, alumni and faculty, Kane said.
“When students build up their skills and interests through co-op [or] class … they want to get their hands dirty and really produce something that can showcase what they’re capable of,” Kane said. “Currently at Northeastern, that’s a little bit difficult to do with a lack of resources, machinery, equipment and actual materials. Generate is our brainchild … in an attempt to fix some of [these] problems.”
Murthy cited several factors in the creation of Generate. Along with the existence of the Sherman Center and a greater awareness of entrepreneurship in general on campus, companies worldwide are increasingly outsourcing their product development and design.
Product development across companies and industries is becoming more “design-centric” throughout the process “in a way that it never was before,” Mark Sivak, Ph.D. of interdisciplinary engineering and Generate’s second faculty adviser said.
He added that Generate attempts to replicate this “tendency toward smarter design” with Northeastern ventures and projects.
“The number one goal in my eyes is to present projects to our engineers that are technically challenging, entrepreneurial focused and force them to learn new skills,” Iskarous said.
This semester, the Generate team is working with their new clients Therapeutic Innovations and Knightly, an IDEA venture led by Abbey Titcomb, a third-year mechanical engineering major. Titcomb described Knightly as a mobile GPS that allows users to alert friends when they feel in danger. She is working with a product design team at Generate to create a working prototype.
“[Generate] is a natural thing that Northeastern should have had,” Titcomb said. “It’s eliminating the idea that engineers can’t be entrepreneurs.”
Photo courtesy Mina Iskarous