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The North Wind

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Hey. My name is Caden and I'm from the Chicagoland area.  I'm currently going into my 3rd year at NMU.  I'm a multimedia production major with a double minor in journalism and criminal justice. For as...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Creative minds unite at NMU

On Oct. 16, a new facility for students and Marquette residents is scheduled to open on Northern Michigan University’s campus. Called “Invent @ NMU,” the facility helps students explore the world of science, technology and business while bringing their own ideas to life.

The premise behind Invent @ NMU is not to help someone start a business, but to help students and Marquette residents develop ideas for inventions or products.

The focus will be on moving through the invention process from start to finish, while providing the resources an individual would otherwise have to find on their own, said Dave Ollila, founding partner of Invent @ NMU.

“Our main focus is on hardware-centric products,” Ollila said. “We take ideas from scribbles on a napkin to a production level product, ready for test marketing.”

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The center was founded by Robert Eslinger, special assistant to the president for economic development, and Ollila, an inventor, entrepreneur and graduate of NMU.

The two men have combined their years of experience in entrepreneurship and economic development into a resource for students and Marquette residents alike.

Using Ollila’s own five step process, individuals can realistically take an idea all the way to production. Each step in the process is designed with a specific goal in mind, Ollila said.

The first stage of development is validation: sitting down with an individual, discussing their ideas and ultimately finding out if their ideas are feasible, Ollila said.

“[The validation process] is designed to very quickly help someone get to a realization of whether or not they have a good idea,” Eslinger said.

The second stage is called ideation, wherein design sketches are prepared and market research is conducted. Once a product passes the ideation stage, it can move on to the commercialization stage, Ollila said.

In the commercialization stage, a product is developed further through the use of computer aided drafting.

A student can also create a model of their idea with the use of a 3-D printer. Once a prototype is put together, the product moves on to testing and engineering, and later sales and marketing development in what’s known as the production stage, Ollila said.

Once the production stage is complete, a concept moves into the final stage: operations. Operations focuses on making a test launch of the product on the market with attention given to public feedback and adjustments in distribution, Ollila said.

Ollila said unlike other universities featuring similar concepts, NMU is not interested in leveraging and owning a person’s intellectual property. Individuals retain full rights to their own ideas.

Using the Invent @ NMU center does come at a price, Eslinger said. The validation process will cost $75 for students and $150 for the general public.

The next four steps of the process will be priced at an hourly rate. However, for those who are ready to begin, there is an incentive to start early.

A member of the Board of Trustees has donated a sum of money to the center and the goal is to have the first ten individuals through the door with great ideas have their costs deferred for the validation stage, Eslinger said.

Assisting Ollila and Eslinger are a number of student employees hired from a multitude of backgrounds. The decision to hire from within was made to provide students the opportunity to gain experience.

“We have incredibly talented students right here who will be able to apply their skills right now, before they graduate,” Ollila said.

Rachel Griep, junior mechanical engineering technology major, said she applied to work at the Invent @ NMU center to gain experience in her field and gain an edge over her peers.

“This is a job I can have in college that applies to the real world and my major,” Griep said.

If an individual doesn’t have a specific product they wish to develop, there are still opportunities to get involved. Students from all backgrounds will have the chance to participate as employees on a project-by-project basis with the main goal of achieving a mix of perspectives and ideas, Ollila said.

The Invent @ NMU center is located at the intersection of Presque Isle Ave. and Fair Ave., in the former M-Bank building. Both Eslinger and Ollila said they were excited to get started and are looking forward to working with students in the future. In addition, Ollila offered a bit of advice.      

“Failure is part of the process,” Ollila said. “Embrace it.”

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