2023 Accomplishments: NENY Student Startup Experience
New Energy New York is proud to offer comprehensive programming to complement our core projects helping to build and sustain the American hub for battery and energy storage technology here in Upstate New York. The NENY Student Startup Experience launched with an inaugural spring 2023 session and has continued into the summer and fall semesters with plans to expand in 2024. In the program, students from throughout New York State apply to work with a clean energy startup for a semester to gain valuable experience and help progress the innovations of participating startups.
One significant benefit of the NENY Student Startup Experience is that participating student’s stipends are entirely covered by the program. This means there is no cost for participating companies to host students.
“The NENY Student Startup Experience has easily been the most influential program I have had the privilege to both coordinate and watch grow,” said Innovation Program Coordinator for NENY and Binghamton University’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships Epiphany Muñoz.
“This year, over 90 students were able to get hands-on experience with 34 clean-tech startup companies on our roster. These students were able to gain valuable experience in areas from marketing, to battery technology,” Muñoz continued “Our startup companies were able to mentor and engage with paid student talent, as well as finish invaluable company projects with their help over the course of just a few short months. The summer session went so well, that the majority of our startup companies have selected at least one student to continue working with for the spring semester.”
Majors of participating students have included business administration, electrical engineering, film, computer science, environmental studies, theater, financial economics, industrial & systems engineering, physics, chemistry, political science, mathematical sciences, accounting, marketing, liberal arts, and more.
2024 plans for program expansion include one-on-one meetings with startups who are not utilizing all of their allotted intern slots to see how we can meet their needs with more students, continuing to foster relationships with two-year colleges like SUNY Broome Community College and Tompkins Cortland Community College to get more two-year college students into the database and to get more cleantech startup companies on our roster.
One company that participated in both the summer and fall 2023 sessions with the same students and saw positive results was LiBAMA Power.
“They’ve been very good [and] they’ve advanced our technology with big steps since they joined,” LiBAMA’s CEO and Founder Wentao Li said. He continued, mentioning that the students helped develop “processes to make what we call our Advanced Metal Anode (AMA). So they’ve helped in every single step to improve the output to get more uniform and get the product better. Now, we are much closer to commercialization than before they started.”
LiBAMA and the students work out of Binghamton’s Koffman Southern Tier Incubator with the goal of making progress toward a prototype of an improved battery that capitalizes on their AMA technology. Ultimately, producers using LiBAMA’s technology will create cleaner, more powerful, less expensive, lighter and safer batteries than those we currently depend upon.
With two out of three students majoring in biomedical engineering, LiBAMA’s startup nature and battery focus was something they had to learn. But ultimately, it was an experience all would find to be extremely valuable and eye-opening.
“It opened up a whole new field that I wasn’t really aware of. Technology wouldn’t really be able to advance without the fundamental energy storage that batteries provide. As a sustainability minor, that’s something I’m very passionate and excited about — so just seeing a company like LiBAMA and others — the results seem very promising, which is exciting to see how this can be applied in the real world afterward,” said intern Pauline Macapinlac, who received her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and is pursuing her master’s degree through the 4+1 program.
Not only have the students learned about the technology LiBAMA uses and gained hands-on laboratory experience, they’ve also gained insight into the business and entrepreneurial side of working at a startup. For some, the experience has proven to be both an educational opportunity as well as providing them with inspiration.
“I didn’t really have a direction of what I wanted to do before, but now seeing how a startup company handles things has been interesting,” said Fina Lu, a senior in the biomedical engineering 4+1 program. “I’ve learned a lot about the business side and how you can expand a startup tech company. Honestly, seeing Wentao work, it really inspires me to produce really good results so the company can grow.”
Inspiration for the students isn’t just coming from the active work they are doing in the lab space. They also noted that having the opportunity to learn alongside and from Li has proven to be exceptionally valuable.
“I think one of the biggest inspirations that has really influenced me is Dr. Li,” said Gy Wyco, a materials chemistry senior in the 4+1 materials science engineering program. “Whenever I see him, he’s always so motivated to push the technology forward. As an undergrad, what he’s doing I probably can’t even fully grasp it and there are so many things I’m learning from him. Dr. Li having so much knowledge about this field has really influenced me and taught me the value of hard work. He’s just a big inspiration to me.”
When reflecting on their favorite part of the NENY Student Startup Experience, Macapinlac, Lu and Wyco all had the same answer: their co-workers. All of them individually noted their love for one another and the fun, supportive working environment.
Li noted this as well as he reflected on the summer and how all three students inspired him. “They are very energetic and they can figure things out. At the beginning, I didn’t know how to schedule them because they are supposed to be half-time,” Li commented. “So, they figured it out amongst themselves to keep the lab running all the time. I think that’s very creative and [showed] I have a lot to learn from them.”
Students at any college or university in New York state who are interested in the NENY Student Startup Experience, are encouraged to apply, learn more here. Startup companies who are looking for student interns and are currently working on a clean energy technology or service located in New York state and/or a member of a New York incubator or relevant accelerator program can apply here.