Stories

Generate: Empowering Innovative Ventures

Generate, operating under the Michael and Ann Sherman Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship Education, is Northeastern’s student-led product development studio. Teams of students connect with clients to work together on engineering product development for early stage startups. Aimed at fostering entrepreneurial engineering on campus, the organization has partnered with clients to help build new technologies.

The organization divides members into five teams: Management, Build Studio, Operations, Outreach, and Branding. There is huge emphasis on the Build Studio, where students contribute to hardware and software production.  

“Since working with Generate I have been doing my best to replicate the construction of that team, and re-acquire the skill sets that they possessed” says Max Thalheimer, founder of earnz. earnz is a customer loyalty platform for small restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Generate worked with Thalheimer throughout the Fall in 2020 to build a customer-facing mobile app and a supporting backend for earnz. 

The student team helped build a foundation for the startup, and since then earnz has continued developing their platform. The mobile app is roughly 30 to 40 percent complete. “earnz has onboarded a front end developer and accepted another full time engineer, making up the current team of six. The team is targeting a Summer 2021 launch of their product in Boston.” 

In 2019, Matthew Swenson collaborated with Generate for SmartyPill, an automatic pill dispenser to address the issue of medication noncompliance in an inexpensive and easy to use fashion. “Generate was instrumental in giving us a barebones implementation of the SmartyPill idea,” says Swenson.  

SmartyPill came to Generate with three prototypes, aiming to create a fourth. Together they sought to address two central challenges: accurately dispensing single pills of any size and decoupling the client and server of their software in order to introduce other user cases to the product workflow. “It was very easy for me to understand Generate’s process, and the documentation and handoff materials helped a ton in continuing development after I was a client. Since Generate, I have been working with my co-founders on improving our hardware, software, and business strategy. We are hoping to obtain a patent for the most recent iteration of our hardware prototype. ” 

SmartyPill was Generate’s first client to have two teams in the same semester: one focused on the hardware components of the product, and the other focused on the supporting software infrastructure. The Software team designed and implemented an API, web portal, and device interface which are extensible and forward-compatible with anticipated future products in the larger Smarty Pill ecosystem. The hardware team was able to design and test a novel universal pill canister design that is modular and can dispense a single pill of a large range of sizes, as well as developing a custom PCB to house the power components required for this prototype. 

Generate is an integral part of what defines the Sherman Center, and by extension what defines the university’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.” 

Professor shashi murthy, Built for Northeastern by Greg St. Martin

With dedicated university students providing their expertise and skills, Generate provides great opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Northeastern community. Read more about their mission, development process, and some previous works here. Their website details client applications, and the interest form is open year round for prospective clients. For Northeastern entrepreneurs, perhaps this organization can help you generate your startup ideas.