“How can you work with these kids, whose ideas could actually change perspectives and change the way we do things, and not get excited?”
PennTAP Innovation Team Lead
How PennTAP and Tim Kerchinski Mentor Penn State Student Startups and Train Pennsylvania Businesses
The Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP) has been providing technical assistance to Pennsylvania businesses since 1965. Housed at Penn State University Park, PennTAP assists businesses by providing in-person consultations, technical advice, and connections to Penn State experts, resources and programs. PennTAP has been actively involved in a couple important programs for Penn State students through the Learning Factory and the Inc.U Competition.
PennTAP has a wealth of experienced staff like Tim Kerchinski, PennTAP’s innovation team lead. Tim manages federal and state grant projects and contracts, as well as customer relationships with private sector companies.
“My background is environmental engineering. I worked in air and water pollution control and hazardous waste remediation for almost 20 years prior to coming to Penn State,” Tim said. “I traveled around the country before having my mid-life crisis and coming to Penn State University Park in 1997 to settle down in this great intellectual community.” He’s also helped launch 3 startups.
When he came to Penn State, Tim started in Client Development during the startup of the World Campus. After ten years in Client Development, Tim wanted to get back into the technical side of things. At the same time an opportunity opened up with PennTAP in the Energy and Environment sector, which was a perfect fit for Tim. A couple years later PennTAP was starting an Innovation Pillar and Tim’s experience helping launch businesses made him an excellent candidate to lead the way.
“I moved to the innovation side and immediately started partnering with The Learning Factory, which works with the senior engineering design capstone course,” Tim said. “The Learning Factory does about 200 projects a year with many involved in prototyping and new or existing product development. PennTAP’s clients are a natural fit to engage with these talented and innovative students.” Thanks to sponsorships from industry partners, the course enables students to build real prototypes and consult on innovative design engineering projects with the actual corporations they might one day work for.
In the last few years Tim has also worked closely with Penn State student startups to prepare them to pitch their startup ideas to crowds at the Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference and directly to investors on the WPSU TV show “The Investment.” Tim’s worked with Penn State startups like Project Vive, Reflexion Interactive, Steer Logic and Moichor to help the students tailor their pitches to their audience and condense them to meet time limits.
Tim got his undergraduate degree at Slippery Rock University near Pittsburgh before obtaining his MBA at Penn State.
Inc.U, a program championed by Tim at PennTAP, is a competition asking students from all Penn State campuses to submit a two and a half minute video of their business idea for consideration by an experienced PSU review committee. Tim notes that the videos don’t need to be expertly produced, just a two and a half minute overview of their business and potential customers. If a student company makes the top 6 selection, they then get personal mentorship to fine tune their pitches over a 5-week period and get to pitch on WPSU’s TV show “The Investment.” Inc.U looks for students that have started a business, but if all they have is an idea—and it’s good enough to start a business–they still have a shot at making the top six.
Tim is enthusiastic about his work. “How can you work with these kids, whose ideas could actually change perspectives and change the way we do things, and not get excited?” Tim asks. “This year’s Inc.U winner, Moichor, created a mobile blood testing technology that helps people with immune deficiencies by keeping them away from places with germs, like hospitals and doctor’s offices.”
In a first for Inc.U and the Investment, Moichor’s mobile blood testing technology won the entire $30,000 prize pool. Previous winners of the competition include Penn State startups Project Vive that makes speech generation devices for people challenged with ALS and Reflexion Interactive that measures complex reaction time, peripheral vision, memory and lateral precision.
In addition to the in-person mentoring and assistance Tim and the other members of PennTAP provide, online webinars of current topics are also available through PennTAP. Past topics have included 3D printing and additive manufacturing, methods to monitor and maximize energy efficiency, prototyping resources at Penn State, student entrepreneurship resources, and many others.
PennTAP’s upcoming training sessions include:
- Energy Funding for Equipment Upgrades and Building Expansion – July 19
- Internet of Things for Smarter Manufacturing – July 31
- Definition of a Solid Waste (DSW) Rule Exclusion: What Does it Mean to Your Company? – Aug. 16
- SBIR and STTR – What Are They and How Can You Partner and Benefit? – Sep. 20
- Manufacturing Week Webinar: EnMS (Energy Management Systems) for Small to Mid-Sized Companies – Oct. 12
For more information about Tim and/or PennTAP, please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-865-4388.