WYOMISSING, Pa. — Penn State Berks student startup team Streamline Charging LLC, which is developing cost-efficient technology for electric vehicle (EV) charging, was among 22 national teams selected for the summer 2023 cohort of the VentureWell Accelerator E-Team Program, which supports student ventures. Streamline Charging LLC was awarded $5,000 in funding and an opportunity to participate in the Pioneer workshop, designed to help them discover the best market for their invention and kickstart their project.
The Pioneer workshop was held at The Engine, a co-working space in Boston built by MIT that helps to grow and nurture the “Tough Tech Ecosystem” — made up of founders, startups, academics, strategic corporate partners, policymakers and capital providers.
There, Streamline Charging worked on developing customizable, cost-efficient technology for electric vehicle charging that can service up to 10 parking spaces per station, reducing installation costs and making EVs more accessible to existing gas stations.
The Penn State Berks student team members all completed the college’s Cornerstone Engineering Design course (EDSGN 100 ) and later formed a team through a mechanical engineering independent study (ME 297). The result was the college’s first attempt to provide first-year engineering students an opportunity to advance a project in engineering design.
The founding members of Streamline Charging include seniors Melanie MacKinnon, Jonathan Smith, Nathan Vreeland and Mark Yazemboski. MacKinnon, Smith, and Vreeland attended the E-Team Program. Currently the team has expanded to include seniors Sean Magilton, Braden Ritter and Zachary Schlegel. All team members began their engineering degrees at Penn State Berks. Vreeland, Ritter and Schlegel intend to complete their degrees at Berks, while the other four plan to complete various engineering degrees at Penn State University Park.
MacKinnon, a mechanical engineering major at University Park, said benefited from what she learned, stating “VentureWell taught me about many aspects that go into a startup. I learned that there isn’t just one path to market. It helped my team reconsider what paths we wanted to take to commercialize our product. VentureWell also taught our team how critical it is to learn who the customers are and how to tailor our product to fit their wants and needs.”
Vreeland, a mechanical engineering major at Penn State Berks, said he gained knowledge on the steps he should be taking today for success tomorrow.
“After having gone through the workshop, I now have a better grasp of the customers we're aiming to serve and what parts of the product chain of electric vehicle chargers we want to be a part of," Vreeland said. "What was especially helpful for me were the post-workshop meetings, where I learned more about the steps we should be taking currently when it comes to dividing equity, filing a patent and the different types of funding we should search for. Through these experiences, I have gained confidence in our design and as an entrepreneur in the electric vehicle charging field.”
Smith, an architectural engineering major at Penn State University Park, added, “VentureWell helped us to reevaluate our position in the electric vehicle charging market and identify new growth possibilities. The program opened our eyes to new partnerships and methods of doing business. This has all helped us form a concrete path forward, and make sure Streamline Charging can make the impact the market needs.”
The creation of Streamline Charging was the result of an assignment in the college’s mechanical engineering independent study course (ME 297). Students had a unique opportunity to pursue their interest within the customized course structure. They enjoyed success at various stages through the course and through the Penn State Berks Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center programs, which led to their applying for and receiving the E-Team Program grant.
The Streamline Charging team completed the Flemming CEED Center’s Customer Discovery Lab, which guides teams in verifying their business assumptions and connects budding entrepreneurs with mentors. At completion of the Customer Discovery Lab, the team received an NSF I-Corps microgrant to develop their prototype. Streamline Charging received another seed grant from the CEED Center VentureWell Project, “Cross-Pollination of STEM Courses to Sustain Entrepreneur Teams Disruptive Technology Solutions.”
Their engineering faculty mentor is Kathleen Hauser, assistant teaching professor of engineering, and their business faculty mentor is Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems and the director of the Flemming CEED Center. The team also worked with business mentors: John Gatto, principal and CEO of JGO Services LLC; Charles Snyder of East Penn Manufacturing; and Tom Wessner, formerly of Tesla.
Kulturel-Konak stated, “We're immensely proud of the Streamline Charging LLC team members' commitment to exploring every chance to advance their customer discovery and prototyping efforts.”
Hauser added, “The team is currently pursuing several opportunities, and we look forward to offering them the support they need to succeed in their future endeavors.”
About the Flemming CEED Center
The Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development Center (CEED) Center was established in the fall of 2011 as part of the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building. Its mission is to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking in the Penn State Berks community. The CEED Center fosters economic growth and development in the Greater Reading area through technology-based solutions, human capital development, and enterprise creation. It provides student entrepreneurs with an incubator in which to develop their startup ideas and mentoring from faculty, as well as volunteers from the local business community. The CEED Center’s programs include the Customer Discovery Lab, Creativity Training Workshops, 3D Printing Workshops, Speaker Series, the STEM Business Idea Challenge, and the Student Enterprise Award. For more information, contact Kulturel-Konak at [email protected].