Bay Area Alumni Association Hosts Exciting Event at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley
Professor Lenore Blum (School of Computer Science), had a vision to help aspiring Carnegie Mellon students to realize their dreams. This vision came to fruition three years ago, with the founding of Project Olympus. “We have many talented people at Carnegie Mellon; students and faculty alike. I realized that if there was a way to connect these talented folks with the resources they needed, the success would have far-reaching effects,” says Blum. Project Olympus connects bright minds with resources to produce amazing results.
Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley was fortunate to provide the venue for the Bay Area Alumni Association to host an event where Blum and one of the benefactors of Project Olympus; Marek Michalowski (Ph.D) co-creator and founder of BeatBots; presented their thoughts on the importance of this venture.
Addressing the alumni, Blum explained, “Project Olympus augments and accelerates the process of moving basic research and great ideas to development and business stages through licensing, creating start-ups, and through corporate collaboration and strategic partnerships.” As the director, Blum leads the Project Olympus efforts to provide start-up advice, micro-grants, and incubator space for faculty and students across campus and helps connect them to interested parties within our regional, national and global communities.
Dr. Michalowski, co-founder of BeatBots LLC (http://beatbots.net), brought along the company’s first product, Keepon, a robotic character and platform that has been featured at WIRED NextFest, and on NBC’s Today Show. Keepon, a small, playful robot, is very simplistic in appearance, but packs quite a punch in its performance. Exploding onto the scene as a favorite on YouTube in 2007, in a music video with the band Spoon, Keepon’s popularity has expanded BeatBots beyond the expectations of its founders Michalowski and Dr. Hideki Kozima. Although interest in Keepon has grown to include large entertainment organizations and even the retail market, Michalowski is keen to maintain the integrity of the initial intent of Keepon; research with children and autism therapy.
Michalowski contributes his success, in part, to the support and mentoring he was exposed to as a member in Project Olympus. “Just having a space to explore my vision and develop it into a working prototype was invaluable. The collaborations and resources that were available to me through Project Olympus provided the necessary infrastructure to be successful, not only as a student conducting research, but also as an aspiring entrepreneur with a dream,” says Michalowski.
Blum urged the alumni to support Project Olympus and to find ways to collaborate with the numerous talented students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon. “We are very excited with the success of our “Olympians” to date, however, as we look to grow and offer even more opportunities and support, we look to our graduates to help by giving back to the university; either through student fellowships or other tangible resources such as space and mentoring.”
The evening wrapped up with an exuberant reception where alumni discussed potential projects, collaborations and future events.