It is easy to dwell on the negative impact of COVID-19, but positive things have emerged during the pandemic, and these things will continue to be part of our new normal. For the Chambers College, West Virginia University and West Virginia, this is a wonderful opportunity to show businesses and consumers how we are championing entrepreneurship and innovation!
This summer, our HIT Lab team explored what we can do to help to limit the spread of virus and how we can empower consumers and businesses with new tools and technologies that will help us move forward without fear.
- Idea to startup, Hygenkey - After 25 designs and countless hours of 3D printing, our team developed a final design for the Hygenkey, a product for the first startup from the HIT Lab. The patent-pending 99.9% copper touch tool features multi-functionality (it can be used on any public surfaces from touch screens, keypads to door handles), and an ergonomic 2-finger handle design, unlike other tools on the market. The elemental copper design harnesses the known antiviral and antibacterial qualities of the metal. This is the only startup that has partnered with an international medical research group from another university to test the product against COVID-19. The startup is also partnering with another company to test copper-impregnated masks for health professionals and members of the service industry. The Hygenkey has been tested by partners in WVU Medicine, Marriot Morgantown, and Visit Mountaineer Country, to name a few. For more details, check out the Hygenkey website.
- New knowledge and technologies - Consumer adoption rates for new technologies have accelerated from years to just a few months; most now use smart phones and apps to shop, purchase, pickup, and deliver in new ways. Our HIT Lab team is currently testing a contactless interactive mobile app for the service industry that will promote a safe but satisfying customer experience for patrons of small and independent businesses. This app will offer a valuable one-stop solution that will connect small businesses to the customers they are currently struggling to reach. We have one potential client who will be testing this app with us. Meanwhile, we are exploring other Internet of Things (IoTs) solutions, augmented reality applications, and that can be used during and post pandemic. Also, programming a service robot that can be used in the service industry both now and after the pandemic is over. They can communicate COVID protocols now, but later they will create memorable customer experiences.
- New skills and opportunities - The pandemic won’t last forever, but the changes in technology adoption and consumer behavior likely will, and our students need to be prepared. The HIT Lab is partnering with the LaunchLab to offer skills training for students who are passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation. We also partnered with the Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative to attract remote workers to West Virginia on a short-term and long-term basis. Since mainstream businesses are going remote, there is nothing to keep employees from moving places where they can enjoy the outdoors, explore country roads, and see the sights in this beautiful state!
We are always looking for partnerships and opportunities for collaboration. The HIT Lab needs industry clients who can partner with us to test our innovative products and technologies. Also, the HIT Lab thrives on the multi-disciplinary background of its students; we have people from business, computer science, engineering, etc.The challenges we are facing during this pandemic create opportunities to enrich our innovative mindsets , ask the right questions, explore various solutions, and solve real-world problems during and beyond the pandemic.