For students who dream of creating the next greatest app, website or tech start-up, Catapult Creative House at Southeast Missouri State University is unveiling a computing space to help them move their entrepreneurial concepts to reality.
On Wednesday, March 21, Catapult, at 612 Broadway in downtown Cape Girardeau, will launch its new computing stations workspace for tech inspired student entrepreneurs. The launch is scheduled for noon-1:30 p.m. and will feature a presentation by Microsoft’s Chad Lich and Alex Zisser, both Southeast graduates, who will discuss “Digital Transformation.”
The computing stations are located on Catapult’s first floor in Room 102 with direct access to a 3D printer.
“Students can come in and work on their own personal business and start-up ideas,” said Leah Powers, operations manager at Catapult Creative House. “This allows them a direct work station with all the resources for app development and more.”
The idea for the space grew from interest expressed by computer science students who worked in Catapult’s former computer labs. Because they needed a specific set of programs and software unavailable at Catapult until now, efforts began to create the new tech area.
“Having their own working station with computers dedicated with specific software and programs came directly from meetings and discussions with students in the computer science program,” Powers said. “Computer science was a natural fit at Catapult because of its ties to entrepreneurship.”
Dr. Sumanth Yenduri, chair of the Department of Computer Science, said, “The Department of Computer Science is very excited about this new beginning. I am looking forward for both students and faculty to connect and utilize the various opportunities available at Catapult.”
Powers said several students already are working on a variety of projects, including educational apps and those for managing operations for large businesses.
“We expect a wide variety of apps and other projects to be created as our students’ interests expand after the stations open,” Powers said.
Fifteen students have been using the current space and are anxious to get started on the new computing stations, she said. One of those students is Mathuran Suriyakumaran, a computer information systems major from Sri Lanka who has been using the current space to develop a prediction website for carGO to determine how many drivers are needed in, for instance, the next five or 30 minutes. CarGO is an on-demand ride hailing service in Cape Girardeau.
“We went to Catapult as a site visit. We were impressed with the space,” Suriyakumaran said. “This place is calm and good and available for night meetings anytime when we have an access card” for after-hours work.
Faizel Khan, a computer science major from India, is another frequent user and “appreciator” of the Catapult computing space. He and his friends are working on a startup concept, and they meet at Catapult to share their ideas. They have contacted professionals in various fields to get feedback on their idea, and are now moving forward with their business plan and development of a mobile app for their business, he said
“I think this new space is going to bring a lot more opportunities for computer science (CS) students as well as students of other disciplines,” he said. “New facilities, like 3D printing and Mac computers, will attract CS students to come and work at Catapult. This will create a unique opportunity for CS students to collaborate with other students, from the business field or others, to brainstorm start-up ideas. I think it’s an important step towards creating an inclusive environment, where students from almost every discipline can come together and exchange their valuable ideas to take a step forward towards entrepreneurship.
“The station will especially help those entrepreneurs that are keen in creating web-based businesses, as now they can easily approach CS students and ask if their ideas are feasible,” Khan said. “This may bring many projects into place that were just ideas before. I want to congratulate everyone at Catapult for achieving great heights and becoming a valuable part of this institute.”
Powers says Catapult expects student demand to continue to rise after the launch, as the new stations provide a unique and personal workspace for students to create their projects. The computing station space also offers students direct access to existing resources within the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Catapult Creative House. Students can come in and work on any of their projects any time of the day in their own work station during Catapult’s normal hours of 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. They also may apply to have afterhours access to the building outside of their normal operating hours, a benefit not previously available on campus.
“This area allows students direct access to the resources they need to start their own tech business,” Powers said. “Its location and connection to the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Catapult Creative House also offers students additional support while developing their business with an opportunity to launch with our existing resources and the University’s support.”
The computing stations launch and presentation, featuring Lich and Zisser, are open to the public. Lich is an IoT Cloud Solution Architect with Microsoft and has been helping global enterprises in their digital transformation for three years. Prior to Microsoft, Lich worked with Build-A-Bear and Intelligrated (Honeywell Company) as a director of business intelligence and development, leading teams and building software to take advantage of business opportunities. Lich holds a Bachelor in Information Management from Webster University and an MBA from Southeast.
Zisser is an account executive for Microsoft, managing a team of local and virtual resources serving Enterprise retail and CPG accounts in the St. Louis area. Prior to Microsoft, he served as a Graduate Assistant in the Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning at Southeast, a sales associate for Cape Bicycle Fitness and Missouri Running Company, and a sales representative for Mondelez International. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and an MBA from Southeast.
For more information on the computing station launch, contact Catapult Creative House at (573) 290-5372 or visit catapultsemo.com.