UCF Students and Faculty Team Up to Commercialize Their Invention

July 20, 2016

FeynmanNano is a student-run, B2B startup company that creates nanostructures originally designed to make solar panels more efficient in producing energy. This technology was developed at UCF by two of the company co-founders – UCF associate professor Jayan Thomas, Ph.D. and engineering student Brandon Carpenter. UCF graduate and mathematics major Jonathan Wachob is the third co-founder. The team has used several of the entrepreneurial resources available at UCF, including the Blackstone LaunchPad, the I-Corps program, and the Office of Technology Transfer.

Earlier this year, Feynman was selected as one of four finalists in the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation, an annual competition for early-stage inventors and entrepreneurs in Florida.

Carpenter is Feynman’s Chief Operating Officer and he shared his experiences as a student entrepreneur and what he has learned through his startup launching journey.

What is your background? (i.e., education, business experience, etc.)

I had an aerospace/mechanical engineering dual major. Recently, I decided to just stick with mechanical engineering, just because there are not enough hours in the day.

All the business experience I’ve received has been from failing in the real world, learning the hard way, and having mentors telling me when I’m wrong.

How did this startup launching process begin for you as an entrepreneur?

When I first came to UCF, I was connected with the Blackstone LaunchPad, a few months before it opened, through the [former] associate director, Pam Hoelzle. She worked with us one-on-one, with me and my co-founders—not for Feynman, but for another venture that I’m still involved in [Fourier Electric].

We met with her to go over what it takes to even think about starting a company, because all we had was an idea. Within the first three meetings, she completely changed everything we were doing, just by asking us the right questions.

We worked with her for about two years. We went from knowing nothing about business and only having an idea to securing our first round of investment and having four or more partnerships with hospitals including Florida Hospital. After working with Pam, she offered us jobs—so I actually work as one of the coaches at the LaunchPad.

The Blackstone LaunchPad taught us those fundamental skills that we needed. They also opened up a lot of opportunities for us in terms of getting connected into the industry, networking, and meeting VC groups. They even helped with our first introduction to Florida Hospital.


What technologies are you in the process of licensing from UCF? What stages of development are they currently at?

It’s a polymer nanoimprinting method. Basically, it’s an economical way to build plastic nanostructures. It’s been demonstrated in the lab; however, taking it to an industrial scale can be done very quickly as long as we can get the necessary funding.

How was it determined that creating a startup was the best way to get these inventions to the marketplace? Walk us through the process of creating a startup company.

Ultimately, Dr. Thomas, myself, and our third co-founder—we all decided to license the technology to our company because of our experience and connections in the industry. We wanted to see the project through. We wanted to take it from its infancy to where it’s out in the real world doing something.

What are three (or more?) ingredients for success when it comes to launching a startup?

  1. Coffee.
  2. A solid team.
  3. Mentors.

In addition to the mentorship we received from Blackstone LaunchPad, we also received mentorship through the UCF I-Corp program. It was an intense program in terms of the amount of work, but through their mentorship on the importance of customer discovery, we used customer feedback to pivot from marketing the technology to solar panel companies to the medical industry. We realized the solar panel companies weren’t interested in having another coating, but we identified another use for the nanotechnology in medical device applications. This was an important transition for us and we wouldn’t have gotten there without the guidance of the I-Corps team. They helped accelerate our company to where it is today, as well as connected us with people in the medical industry that have helped us grow our business.

Was there anything about starting a startup that you found to be intriguing, ironic, or surprising?

I could probably write a book to answer that question. First, I’d say it was surprising how hard it actually is, compared to how it’s portrayed. You have to quickly learn how to be resilient in the face of constant rejection—meaning that for every one success, you have nine failures that follow. But it’s that one success that can keep you going. You also have to learn to be able to take criticism constructively and to not get easily discouraged.

How do you see startups that use university technology different from other types of startups?

One key distinction is they would have a clear advantage because they would have the university’s weight behind them. Even if you’re talking with investors, pitching a funding proposal—when you’re able to say that UCF, one of the largest universities in the US, has their hand in the honey pot, it makes a difference as far as credibility, especially if you’re a student.

As a student, what do you think makes UCF unique in how they approach entrepreneurship?

I have friends all over, attending different universities, and UCF is definitely unique in the aspect that there’s so much research here. Also, the entrepreneurial ecosystem has really been growing here over the last two and a half years. Everything’s [the entrepreneurial resources] becoming more streamlined and consolidated, and departments on campus are working together to really push this. So because of that, there are students that are going through these [entrepreneurship] channels and becoming successful.

If there is one piece of advice that you would give a student entrepreneur, something you wish you had known before you launched a startup—what would that be?

Almost all of the most important lessons I’ve learned was through making mistakes. Feynman and Fourier were not my first two startups. There were probably two or three earlier projects that were terrible, unspeakably terrible. But if anything, they serve as learning tools. From those failure experiences, we were able to learn enough where, once we had mentorship, we were able to actually go and be more successful.

Student-founded companies like Feynman Nano utilize UCF innovations to impact industry and the world. To learn more about startup resources at UCF, contact Julia Roberts.


Written by Deborah Beckwin

Connect with Your Peers to Grow Your Company

GrowFL’s CEO Roundtables, powered by CEO Nexus, are peer groups that give executives the opportunity to discuss business practices and management strategies with peer CEOs who deal with similar growth challenges.

Are you a CEO searching for new insights and peer support to take your company to the next level?

Clean Technology Business Competition Gives Boost to Promising Energy Ventures

MegaWatt Ventures Accepting Applications to Compete for $50K Grand Prize 

Clean Technology Business Competition Gives Boost to Promising Energy Ventures

Students demonstrate their clean energy technology at a previous Megawatt Ventures showcase hosted by UCF.

Students and technology entrepreneurs have a chance to launch their innovative energy product ideas as part of the MegaWatt Ventures’ cleantech business competition, sponsored by the United States Department of Energy (US DOE) and UCF. Applications are now being accepted through February 19th, 2016 for this annual event. Teams are selected to compete based on the quality of their proposed technology and the potential market for their innovation. The grand prize is $50,000 to help launch their “big” idea.

“The MegaWatt Ventures competition is designed to give aspiring entrepreneurs a platform to present their technology to a panel of experts who can gauge the marketability of their idea,” explains Tom O’Neal, Ph.D., associate vice president of the Office of Research & Commercialization at UCF. “Every team walks away with resources to help them take that next step. The networking, exposure and advice they receive as a result of their participation is invaluable.”

Although teams ultimately have their sights set on the grand prize, top finalists are also awarded with valuable resources. Ten finalist teams will be accepted into an eight-week startup training program, while the top three finalists will be invited to the national DOE Cleantech UP showcase in Denver where the MegaWatt Ventures winner will be able to compete for an additional $50,000 prize.  All participants have the opportunity for networking with venture capitalists, executives and experienced tech entrepreneurs.

The MegaWatt Ventures competition, first started in 2011, has distributed over $600,000 in awards and training support to entrepreneurial cleantech teams. These teams have raised an additional $4 million in follow-on funding.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • At least 50% of team members must be students enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university within the current academic year.
  • Technology must fall within the scope of the U.S. DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
  • Teams are recommended to have diverse backgrounds in business and technical fields
  • Equity capital raised of less than $200,000

Interested teams may apply online at https://www.younoodle.com/competitions/megawatt_ventures. Completed applications are due by February 19th. Learn more, including how to attend an upcoming webinar or campus visit from the MegaWatt Ventures team by visiting www.MegaWattVentures.com.

About MegaWatt Ventures:
MegaWatt Ventures is an annual clean energy business plan competition that is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Central Florida. The competition has an over-riding mission of encouraging the commercialization of innovative clean energy technologies from the lab bench into the marketplace. Innovations submitted through the competition are vetted by industry experts and cleantech industry experts.  Student/faculty teams from American universities or early-stage companies headquartered in the U.S. are eligible to participate in this exciting annual program that brings innovation, entrepreneurship and the cleantech industry together. For more information, please visit megawattventures.com or call Jack Henkel at 407-882-0663.

Revolutionary Way to Train Golfers Developed with Help of UCF Researchers

First of its Kind Technology Allows Golfers to “Feel” Successive Mechanics of Ideal Swing


The DNA Ring Swing Trainer – a first of its kind training system allowing golfers to “feel” the successive mechanics of their personalized ideal swing – will make its industry debut at the 2016 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, January 26-29th, where it will be unveiled and demoed to the golf industry.

Longtime golfer David Napolitano had an idea to revolutionize the way the perfect golf stroke was taught and learned for both amateurs and professionals. He understood first-hand the painstaking process of committing each complex set of movements for the perfect golf swing to muscle memory so he set out to build the perfect trainer.

The training system is the first of its kind that allows golfers to “feel” the successive mechanics of their personalized ideal swing. By repeating the ideal movement over and over through a guided “ride,” powering all aspects of the golf swing – shoulder turn, wrist cock and turn, weight shift, follow through, speed, tempo, etc. – the golfer is learning to power their own swing. The mechanics are personalized to the student’s level of expertise, physical condition, and swing characteristics to create an individualized experience.

Because developing this solution required complex mechanical and electrical engineering to enable the sensitive responsiveness of adapting the swing to each golf student, Napolitano and Chief Operating Officer Martin Lebouitz solicited the expert help of University of Central Florida (UCF) researchers from the College of Engineering and Computer Science, many of whom Lebouitz had worked with on previous, successful projects.

UCF professors Thomas Wu, Issa Batarseh, Louis Chow, and Wei Wu along with graduate students Xiaoyi Zhao and Amit Bhattacharjee worked with input from golf professionals to design a solution, test feasibility, and validate the concept. Initial funding was provided by DNA Sports Trainer with support from a matching grant from the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. A second round of funding was invested to build and test two pre-production prototypes based on the proven concept and design.

The team of engineering and golf professionals have spent three years developing this technology. A functional prototype is planned for the Spring of 2016.

The DNA Ring Swing Trainer, manufactured in the U.S., will make its industry debut at the 2016 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, January 26-29, where it will be unveiled and demoed to the golf industry.

About DNA Sports Trainer, LLC:
DNA SPORTS TRAINER, LLC, is a privately held sports technology company in Florida. It has developed and patented the first bio-mechanical Ring Swing Training device that instructs beginning, intermediate and advanced golfers how to perfect their golf swings to be in harmony with their body mechanics while at the same time not allowing distracting and conflicting thought processes to enter into the training procedure. The company plans to introduce its patented technologies into the sports of Tennis, Baseball and Hockey. DNA Sports Trainer, LLC is headquartered in Tampa, FL.

Human Analytics Company Licenses Innovative, UCF-Developed Facial Recognition Technology

Well-Suited to Address Hospitality, Workforce and Electronic Payment Industries, The Technology Provides Faster and More Precise Photo/Video Facial Recognition


Thomas O’Neal, director, UCF Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and associate vice president for Research & Commercialization (left), congratulates Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos (right), on the Miami-based startup’s licensing of UCF Center for Research in Computer Vision-developed facial recognition technology.

An innovative, more precise and faster facial recognition technology—compared to the current state of the art—developed through the UCF Center for Research in Computer Vision has been licensed to human analytics company Kairos.  The Miami-based startup will incorporate this new computer vision technology within its core facial recognition product designed to serve enterprise customers within a variety of industries including hospitality, workforce and electronic payment industries.

Under the leadership and direction of Mubarak Shah, Ph.D., a widely recognized leading expert in computer vision research, the UCF Center for Research in Computer Vision developed the technology to significantly improve the ability to accurately complete facial identification of individuals in photos and video. The video capability is especially exciting for the industry, as traditional technologies have lacked accuracy, are typically cumbersome to operate, as well as expensive to launch and maintain.

“The capability of this facial recognition technology is very exciting to us,” said Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos. “Facial recognition technology has been developing over the past few decades, however, video—with its motion and variations in illumination—has long been the challenge.  Dr. Shah and his team have developed the right solution that combines accuracy, speed and deployability for the commercial market.”

The technology is based on an algorithm developed by the UCF team to focus on specific facial features that then converts a photo into a checkerboard of patches and extracted tiny snapshots of the most significant facial parts. The computer program than compares the photo against a database of photos, feature by feature, and identifies the match.  This is highly attractive within the hospitality, amusement, healthcare and electronic payment industries where organizations find it beneficial to quickly and reliably identify consumers, whether for promotional opportunities or access issues.

In its application for video, the technology provides an end-to-end face recognition system that addresses the difficult problem of identifying a video face track using a large database of still face images. Traditional technologies are based on an expensive frame-by-frame method.  Dr. Shah and his team of researchers developed a novel algorithm Mean Sequence SRC that performs video face recognition using a joint optimization leveraging all of the available video data and the knowledge that the face track frames belong to the same individual.

Whereas the defense and security industries feature a number of facial recognition technologies and companies, Kairos is targeting the enterprise market, which it believes is underserved and therefore represents a significant opportunity.  Key industries include hospitality, amusement, workforce, gaming, healthcare and electronic payment industries.

“Working with Kairos provides the perfect illustration of how UCF research and UCF-developed technologies are not only brought to fruition but are also applied to the commercial marketplace,” said Narasimha Nagaiah (Raju), Ph.D, licensing associate with UCF’s Office of Technology Transfer, who facilitated the license agreement.

Brackeen, who believes UCF’s computer vision program is one of the top programs of its kind, expressed significant satisfaction in his experience working with UCF’s Office of Technology Transfer.

“In our efforts to identify a leading-edge facial recognition technology, we were quickly able to come across

UCF’s computer vision program and identify Dr. Shah’s research as groundbreaking,” said Brackeen. “The response by the Office of Technology Transfer was exceptional and thorough in its support of our effort to take this technology to the commercial market.”

In addition to working with UCF’s Office of Technology Transfer, Kairos recently received investment support through the Florida Angel Nexus and the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research. Kairos plans to work closely with UCF and the computer vision program, as the company grows and adds talent.

About Kairos
Kairos is a human analytics company designed for innovative, data driven businesses. Its core business offerings provide facial recognition, crowd analytics and emotion analysis solutions. The company provides multi-dimension analysis of human beings by capturing decisive moments in people’s behavior. This intelligence empowers companies with meaningful metrics. Kairos’ mission is to radically change how companies understand people. For more information, visit kairos.com

Forum on Intellectual Property Overview

image10300103809The UCF Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) and UCF Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) will be presenting a complimentary speaking event on Intellectual Property Overview given by Asad Nawaz, a Supervisory Patent Examiner with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  The speaking forum will be held on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 at the College of Business I, Room 135.

Talks geared toward students will be at 11:00 am with discussion points to include:

  • Day in the Life of an Examiner
  • Internship/Career Opportunities at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

Talks geared toward faculty will be at 2:00 pm with discussion points to include:

  • Intellectual Property-Value and Protection

Asad Nawaz is a Supervisory Patent examiner in Electrical Technology Center 2400, which is responsible for reviewing patent applications directed towards VOIP and multiplexing technologies. Mr. Nawaz received his Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Computer Science and a Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance from George Mason University. He has completed his doctoral coursework in Information Technology with a focus in Network Security and is conducting research in Verifiable Anonymity in Mobile Ad Hoc Networks.

For more information contact Brion Berman, brion.berman@ucf.edu, 407-882-0342.



Game Changer: Venture Capital

image10286141757Starting and growing a successful business can be incredibly rewarding.  It offers entrepreneurs the chance to pursue their passion, challenge themselves and support the local economy.  But starting a business can also be incredibly difficult.  Entrepreneurs face many obstacles on the path to success including a lack of resources, mentors and affordable office space, just to name a few.

Read article at:


Is bigger better? UCF storms higher ed

UCF is in “the vanguard of an insurgency that aims to demolish the popular belief that exclusivity is a virtue in higher education.”

Leading Visionaries in Sensor Technologies to Gather in Orlando to Accelerate Development of Ultra-High Volume Sensors Supporting Abundance, mHealth and the IoT

Scheduled in December, TSensors Summit Comes to Central Florida

image09260091620(ORLANDO, FL) –The world’s leading visionaries in sensor technologies will come together to Central Florida later this year in an effort to accelerate the development of ultra-high volume sensors that will support the vision of “Abundance”, mobile health (mHealth) and the Internet of Things (IoT). A division of the MEMS Industry Group®, the TSensors Summit is part of a worldwide initiative to create a roadmap for the production of trillions of sensors to meet critical life sustaining/transforming needs in areas such as healthcare, food, safe water and clean air.

Scheduled for December 9-10 at the Florida Hospital Nicholson Center in Celebration, the TSensors Summit’s Central Florida location this year is made possible thanks to the combined efforts of Enterprise Florida, the University of Central Florida, ICAMR (International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research – based in Osceola County, Florida), Orlando EDC and The Corridor, with additional support from ROHM, ams, QuickLogic, Tousimis, Qualcomm, PNI Sensor and New Generation M2M Consortium.

“Advanced manufacturing, networked sensors and the Internet of Things are extremely exciting areas for technology research, development, commercialization and growth,” said M.J. Soileau, Ph.D., vice president for UCF’s Office of Research and Commercialization. “These areas represent significant economic opportunities in terms of new technology advancements, manufacturing and production, goods and services and jobs.”

The TSensors Summit effort was launched in 2012 by Janusz Bryzek, Ph.D., to accelerate the development of sensors supporting “Abundance”—as defined by Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, and Steven Kotler in their bestselling book, Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think (2012). The Abundance vision is that by the mid-2030s, humankind will end hunger on earth, provide medical care and clean energy to all, and eliminate global pollution. Such utopian goals are made possible mainly by several exponential technologies producing goods and services faster than the growth of global demand for them. Networked sensors are among these exponential technologies. Forecasts for sensor demand are as high as 100 trillion by 2030.

“It was important to us to be part of the team of technology and economic leaders that worked to bring this summit to the area,” said Dan Holladay, executive director of operations and technology Programs at ICAMR. “Next-generation sensor technology and advanced manufacturing capabilities are only going to increase in demand and opportunities. Supporting events such as the Tsensors Summit can only help to support and build upon this region’s efforts to become the leader in advanced sensors, photonics and optics, and other advanced device manufacturing.”

The TSensors Summits, hosted in locations around the world, provides crucial information into the emerging future applications—enabling the development of strategic marketing and technology plans for organizations to ride the IoT and mHealth tides, and bringing the vision of Abundance closer to reality. The summits attract a strong cross section of government, academic, research and commercial organizations interested in advancing sensor-based opportunities.

“We attended a recent TSensors Summit and it immediately occurred to us that if we could bring this kind of forward-thinking tech conference to Florida, we could expose the world’s leading sensor technologists to all our state has to offer,” said John Krug, senior director for business development at Enterprise Florida. “Florida, and this region in particular, is in a unique position to support innovative manufacturing processes, materials and equipment for advanced sensors. Hosting the TSensors Summit here—which will attract visionaries, technologists and investors—is yet another step we’re taking to promote Florida’s technology advancements as means of creating new high-wage, high-value jobs.“

For more information and to register for the TSensors Summit, visit TSensors Orlando.

The International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR), based in Osceola County, Florida, invites leading global companies requiring next-generation, high performance solid state devices—advanced sensors, photonic devices, 3D integration, and other semiconductor products—to participate in a consortium with an open innovation platform. ICAMR is initially targeting the mega-growth technologies that will lead to over 50 billion connected devices by the beginning of the next decade. ICAMR will develop innovative manufacturing-based materials, processes, and equipment by leveraging unique emerging technology capabilities and background intellectual property. ICAMR will establish advanced lab/fab and universal technology platforms with the economy of scale needed for cost-effective manufacturing. ICAMR is located in the FARM—a research park offering acres of permitted building space for those who wish to focus on the development of advanced manufacturing technologies and take advantage of dedicated space without issues associated with permitting and utilities. For more information, please visit www.icamr.net.

Growing Good Jobs Without Tax Incentives

Each year, lawmakers debate the merits of spending part of your hard-earned paycheck to pay companies to open or grow a business in the Sunshine State. While tax incentives are an important part of a sustainable, long-term economic development and job creation strategy, they are one tool in a toolbox filled with options. It is not easy to design programs that help attract and retain Florida job creators without the help of taxpayer funds. But Florida has a little-known secret weapon.

The editorial piece was picked up by the Palm Beach Post and published on 8/26/15.