Through The Joan F. & John M. Thalheimer ’55 EUREKA! Ventures Program, Lehigh students are making progress on their start-up companies that provide services in the areas of fire detection, education and music production.
For the past 10 years, the Lehigh University Baker Institute has given students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a wide range of programs promoting entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.
One of the Baker Institute’s programs is the EUREKA! Ventures Program, consisting of monthly Pitch Nights. At these events, students present innovative projects to a group of judges, and the winners receive funding, mentorship and technical support.
Zoe Sherman, ‘25, is the co-founder of a start-up called Inferno Guard. She said the Baker Institute has been able to offer helpful resources.
Sherman said her project is a wildfire detection device and notification system that provides wildfire detection to large landowners in fire-prone areas. She has been working on it since her freshman year of high school. She plans to continue developing and improving the product, especially since the industry does not currently have devices like hers.
“We’ve done a lot of interviews since with people who have been victims of wildfires, and that has really kept us going,” Sherman said.
She has presented at multiple EUREKA events throughout the year, using the most recent one to pitch her next step: Inferno Guard’s product development team, which is recruiting students to help with the development and marketing of what is now just a prototype.
“We’re trying to take our product to the next level and really create a functional device that we can bring to market,” Sherman said.
Skyler Mott, ‘25, also recently presented his entrepreneurial project, Mott’s Gambit, at EUREKA Pitch Night. He started Mott’s Gambit over the summer in order to teach young kids how to play chess and test the effects of chess on children’s intelligence.
Mott said he has been playing chess since he was four years old, competing in tournaments nationwide and being ranked in the top 100 nationally.
“I love working with kids,” Mott said. “I have five siblings, and I just kind of really enjoy making other people’s lives better, so if I could kind of pull all this together, not only is there money in this industry that people don’t know about, but it would also be improving the intelligence of the younger generation.”
Jeremy Strungis, ‘22, another EUREKA Pitch Night winner, presented his intrusive synthesizer, a musical device that he initially began developing for an engineering class.
During the development process, Strungis said he realized his device had potential to be more than just a class project — it could be a marketable, commercialized product.
Strungis said he has been making electronic music since he was 18 and wanted to create something that would eliminate users’ need to refer to chord charts and scale tables when trying to make music.
“This device also gives the user the opportunity to play a chord with just one finger, whereas in classic music you have to have at least two notes to play a chord,” Strungis said. “Someone can play an entire chord with one finger, and then they can be instructed by the piano keys lighting up to show you what is within (the) scale of that chord that you chose.”
He has been working on his project since August and plans to have a prototype completed by April. Through the Baker Institute, Strungis has gotten funding and has been given a coach to help him with the business aspect of his device, since he hopes to continue its development post-graduation.
Along with EUREKA Pitch Night, where they received $500 of funding and free coaching, Sherman, Mott and Strungis said they have attended the Baker Institute’s Founders’ Circle. This is a meeting where EUREKA Pitch Night winners meet to discuss projects and plans and bounce ideas off of each other, Mott said.
“I really think that the Baker Institute is there for good reason, and they’re there to help,” Strungis said. “There are tons of good opportunities and research there, just in general.”