Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

NOVA’s Fab Lab Completes 2nd Product Design Incubator (PDI) Cohort

On June 14, the NOVA Fab Lab held a Product Design Incubator (PDI) Pitch Event at the Richard J. Ernst Community Cultural Center at the NOVA Annandale Campus.

Sixteen PDI fellows showcased their innovative product design ideas aimed at improving disaster readiness, financial education, closet assistance, timeliness, and cybersecurity.

The presentations were made to an audience that included 12 NOVA professors, four deans, past PDI fellows, and industry guests from Capital One, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), serial entrepreneurs from new startups, GDIT, Microsoft, and Amazon.

PDI, funded by the National Science Foundation, took place at NOVA’s Manassas campus and aimed to equip students with interdisciplinary product design skills. It was created in response to industry partners’ demand for candidates proficient in collaboration, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation.

Throughout the spring, students participated in entrepreneurship workshops, working in interdisciplinary groups to brainstorm, collect data, and develop solutions. Over the summer, they transformed their concepts into tangible products, creating marketing materials, pitches, and prototypes.

Richard Sewell, Fab Lab Coordinator, led the program, with IET Project Manager Chris Russell and Associate Professor of Business Administration Cameisha Chin serving as co-leads.

Cameisha shared, “Students engaged in meaningful collaborative efforts during the program. At times, they mitigated difficult decisions, mediated differences, and worked to achieve their goals on a timeline.  They produced outcomes that were meaningful to each member of their group based on the ideation methodology.”

Cybersecurity fellow Khan Richardson and Cloud Computing fellow Saugat Dhakal developed “blackbox,” a device that intercepts and monitors wireless signals using Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), which involves collecting and analyzing electronic signals and communication-related information.

Both students praised the program, with Khan stating, “We wouldn’t be at this event without the tools and the instructors that the Fab Lab provided us.” Saugat added, “The Fab Lab exposed us to people outside of our majors, and we learned how to use the UV and 3D printers, which made us more confident.”

Judy Marouf, Mohamed Aziz Laouiti, and Jonathan Bonilla created “closetpal,” a personal style assistance app that helps users plan outfits based on the weather, mood, and destination. Users can upload photos of their clothes, and over time, the app will get to know their style preferences better.

Mohamed explained, “I enjoyed working in a team and coming up with an idea that wasn’t my own. We were advised not to bring in our own ideas. They wanted us to start from scratch because that way, each team member owns a part of the product.”

Judy shared, “The really cool thing is that during the first two weeks of the program, we learned something new every day—printing, making t-shirts and stickers, and much more. We learned who we are as teammates, too, and that’s something you don’t usually get to do. I was so close to not applying because I was scared, but I’m so glad I did. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”

Cloud Computing fellow Camila Lemes Goncalves and engineering student Katie Velasco-Nunez designed “We Nudge,” an app that combines a navigation system with digital calendars, providing appointment reminders and traffic updates. Like “closetpal,” over time “We Nudge” will get to know users’ habits better.

Katie explained, “Camila and I were trying to figure out a common problem we had. After Mr. Russell asked several students why they were late, we came up with this idea. I love our project and was motivated to come to the Fab Lab, which I hadn’t known about until my engineering professor brought our class here. Mr. Sewell gave us the whole spiel, which definitely caught my attention.”

“Moolah,” a budgeting app for college students aged 18 to 25, was developed by cybersecurity student Robert Biliter, business and administration student Haritha Pisupati, computer science student Anosha Khairi, and computer engineering student Jaden Todd. A key component is to partner with colleges in order to keep the app free for students.

The team emphasized the supportive environment of the Fab Lab. Jaden said, “It’s a comfortable environment for both science and art students to meet and match up. It allows us to take ideas and turn them into reality.”

Haritha added, “I think it’s the aesthetic and the vibe itself. The environment helps you concentrate. It’s a place where you can meet people who are different from you and learn a lot from them.”

Team “Hermes Net,” consisting of business management student Stephanie Marino, engineering student  Helina Semu, engineering and welding student Matthew Manero, and general studies student Kyle Morrison, created an autonomous drone system that uses waypoint technology and cellular repeaters to deploy cellular service over disaster-struck areas.

Helina highlighted the importance of their product, saying, “Imagine you’re in an area that has been struck by a disaster. You can’t call for help, you can’t call your family. Your family’s trying to call you, but they can’t get to you. Imagine the relief it would provide to know that even if something like this happened to you, your calls could get through.”

“It’s an obvious physical need; you need to be able to call for help, but it’s also an emotional need. Even if you’re fine and your family’s fine, just knowing that is important,” added Kyle.

Fab Lab employee Jason Armstrong, who participated in PDI last year, said, “Seeing the pitches was really cool because I recognized all the hard work these students put in. I appreciated it more because I knew how challenging the program was.”

Richard Sewell expressed his admiration for the students’ dedication, saying, “It’s always amazing to see what students come up with and how far they take it when push comes to shove. Their answers showed how much time they spent thinking about logistics.”

The event acknowledged the invaluable contributions of faculty mentors, directors, deans, speakers, and industry partners who provided guidance and feedback to the students throughout the program.

CLRI Graduates Network With Industry Executives

Education meets opportunity! Our 6th cohort of NOVA IET CLRI (Career and Readiness Leadership Institute) grads at Northern Virginia Community College used new skills to make industry connections at our recent networking event aimed at securing #InDemandTech internships and jobs!

We had a record number of students this Fall, with 61 students at the preliminary interest meeting and 65 students attending at least one workshop.

NOVA IET’s  M. Andy Chaves and Sedrick Settle have done excellent work inspiring students to get involved and understand the value of interpersonal relationships in the technology industry.

Overall, 41 students are on track to complete CLRI, ready to get ahead with valuable soft-skills (Building Your Personal Brand, Interview Prep, Professionalism & Accountability, Effective Communication, Trends in IT, and How to Write a Technical Resume) that are vital for their technology career journey.

During the program, students were offered at least 4 site tours to Data Centers and a microchip processing plant to gain a fuller understanding of what they are preparing for.

The big finish – an Executive Mentoring and Networking Event where industry professionals advised and conversed with students to help them build their network. Many of these companies will provide internship and job opportunities to CLRI participants, as has been the case every time we do CLRI!

Big thanks to the following executives and companies who invested their time, knowledge, and experience for our CLRI grads looking to launch their careers:

CoreSiteMiguel Ramos, CMCO
Sustainable Workforce Development Solutions (SWDS) – Daisy Saulls
FedHIVEMichael Cardaci
Amazon Web Services (AWS)Stephen Jolly
Micron TechnologyMichael Guttman
A Foot in the Door, Inc.Keith W. Francis
Technology Infrastructure Advisors – Ajay Bawa

The feedback we received from students was effusive. Here’s a few of the responses:

“CLRI is an incredible program from beginning to the end, every single day was filled with great opportunities to learn and explore new careers. The best program ever created to achieve students confidence at the door step of widely expanding technology industries in Virginia. I’m thankful and grateful be in this program and hope future NOVA students will continue to be inspired by CLRI.”
Shamalee Jayakodi Arachchige

It was fantastic! I had very thoughtful and insightful discussions with industry leaders. I feel much more confident in myself and in my speaking abilities. Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate, learn, and apply the concepts you’ve instilled in my CLRI teammates and I.” – Gabriel Diaz-Rosero

“Thank you for the the event. The mentors are so welcoming, open to share and listen. We are so glad to be a part of the community. I left with a clearer vision of my next step.” – Nga Tran

NOVA students who are interested in getting in on the 2024 CLRI sessions, go to

More about CLRI at

PDI Completes Inaugural Cohort with Pitch Event

On Friday, June16th students from the Fab Lab’s inaugural Product Design Incubator (PDI) presented their product pitches to an audience of faculty, staff, and industry guests.

PDI is a project designed to train groups of community college students through a product design challenge. The PDI curriculum integrates entrepreneurship training and design thinking to guide students from initial ideation through the prototyping and pitch processes. PDI increases contact between students and industry professionals, fosters interdisciplinary collaboration between NOVA students and staff, and increases the supply of IET workers with industry-required collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills.

At the pitch event, student groups met informally with guests during a networking event, then gave formal 10-minute pitches. Two product prototypes were presented: Student Rise, a student-led recruitment service for internships; and Novagation, a mobile indoor navigation app for college campuses.

Isaiah Harris, a PDI student who helmed Novigation, said “PDI is a great opportunity because it puts you in contact with so many people in the industry and it allows you to learn so many different skills from business to marketing to product design and creative thinking. Definitely recommended. It really allows you to work as a team and will help you figure out what your strengths are and also how to improve upon your weaknesses.”

Tina Dang, another PDI student added “I’ve been able to meet some amazing people in PDI. It has taught me how to communicate better and learn how to adapt in difficult situations and has also allowed my creativity to expand.”

As far as the advisors, Fab Lab Coordinator Richard Sewell praised what the students achieved: “I’m immensely proud of the work that students accomplished during their time at the Lab. They’ve all shown tremendous growth in their ability to collaborate, innovate, and design.”

In addition, NOVA associate professor of business and PDI advisor Cameisha Chin embarked that “each project presented was clear, compelling, and commercially viable. Students demonstrated both an entrepreneurial spirit and a shrewd business sense.”

For more on PDI in general, click here.