Nathan LaWarre is a change agent on campus, seeking opportunities for students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, helping create a student innovation space, and working with faculty to conduct workshops that expose students to creativity and innovation. The junior majoring in computer engineering is one of two students at WMU selected as University Innovation Fellows through a program administered by Stanford University. Jill Puckett, a business student at Western, also was selected as a University Innovation Fellow. Both are headed to Stanford later this month for additional training that commemorates the 5th year anniversary of the fellowship program. Since its inception, the University Innovation Fellows program has trained 1,000 fellows at 185 schools around the world.
“When you first enter the University Innovation Fellows program it is an intense six weeks of online training,” LaWarre said. “You interact with students from all over the world during those six weeks and collaborate on many different projects.” When the initial training was complete, the students headed to the design school at Stanford to meet up and participate in additional training on entrepreneurship, innovation and design thinking. They also had the opportunity to participate in workshops at Google and Microsoft.
“The training is all about entrepreneurial skills, collaboration, ideation, design thinking, problem solving, empathy, and how to find and use the resources at your disposal,” LaWarre said. “It’s a very intense training, but well worth it. It changes the way you look at problems and tackle them.”
He said he is looking forward to returning to Stanford to continue his training. “Dr. Steve Butt has been very supportive of the Innovation Fellows program and obtaining the funding from the college to allow me to have this opportunity,” LaWarre said. “I really want to make a difference here at Western in exposing students to creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.”
LaWarre has been involved in creating the Innovation Club, a registered student organization that provides a place on campus for students to design, build and be creative. “The Innovation Club provides a ‘makerspace’ where students take their ideas or skills they want to learn and actually build those ideas and learn those skills,” he said. “And even if you don't have an idea or skill you want to learn, you can jump on someone else's idea and help with it.”
The makerspace, which is run by students, is in the University Computing Center on the second floor, and is open from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Use of the facility is free for students. It houses an array of equipment including 3D printers, hand tools, prototyping materials, and electrical equipment. Innovation Club members also have established a Student Projects Fund that students can apply to for funding their unique projects. Among the projects currently being funded are a Bluetooth speaker made from scratch, a robotic arm and a 3D printed 2-level train set.
Members of the Innovation Club also have been working with faculty to run design thinking workshops with several First Year Experience classes, touching on topics such as collaboration, teamwork, communication and relationship building.
More information about the Innovation Club can be found on Instagram and Twitter at iclubwmu, and on Facebook and LinkedIn.