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Moxie Center for Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Strengthens the Engineering Talent Pipeline

 The Jacobs School of Engineering views engineering education as a pipeline that starts with outreach and summer programs for K-12 students and continues as those students become undergraduates, graduate students and working professionals. Along the way, individuals have the opportunity to develop both high-level technical know-how and the professional skills they need to become leaders in the technology economy.

Thanks to a generous gift from Irwin Zahn and his family through their Moxie Foundation, the Moxie Center for Undergraduate Entrepreneurship is the latest resource added to the talent pipeline. The Moxie Center provides an incubator for students to prototype and test their ideas.

"We believe that all students participating in our incubator will enhance their technical education by gaining experience understanding why products are built, who will benefit and who will pay – the keys to successful innovation," said Jay Kunin, the center's director, and an entrepreneur with a long record of success.

Sara Taghizadeh
Mechanical engineer Sara Taghizadeh is part of the team that won first place in the Zahn Prize for their solar umbrellas, which are designed to provide electrical outlets at outdoor cafes. Learn more: JacobsSchool.ucsd.edu/moxiecenter

In May, after just five months in operation, the Moxie Center awarded its first-ever Zahn Prizes – and a total of $10,000 in cash – to three teams of students that presented the best business plans. A team of mechanical engineers won the grand prize of $6,000 with an idea to use solar umbrellas to provide electrical outlets at outdoor cafes. The team includes seniors Sara Taghizadeh (left), who graduated in June, Austin Steussy and Faizan Masood. The team already has a prototype that it is preparing to test at the Price Center on campus.

Second place went to freshman Uzair Mohammad of Saaf Engineering Solutions, who received $3,000 for his method of growing a biological filter for drinking-water purification. Third prize was awarded to Kevin Liang and Eric Suen, of Aqua Design Innovations, who received $1,000 for their aquaponics business model. Liang is a third-year biology major and Suen is a sophomore studying economics. Irwin Zahn said he hopes the Moxie Center energizes more students from all academic disciplines to participate in this unique opportunity to explore how to turn their business ideas into reality.

The process of developing a technology, and a business plan to sell it, is what's essential about the Moxie Center. "They have to develop something. They have to put together a plan. They have to present it and defend it in response to questions," said Zahn. "So even if you lose you really win. The reason you win is because it's training, so the next time you'll do even better."

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