Baker Institute Team
Senior Spotlight: Tech Tanasarnsopaporn '19
Tech Tanasarnsopaporn '19 has been a leader in the New Ventures Club, Lehigh's student led entrepreneurial group responsible for programs like the Startup Job Fair and Make-a-Thon.
Major | Dual Degrees in B.S. Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE), B.S. Materials Science and Engineering
Hometown | Bangkok, Thailand
What has been your best entrepreneurial experience at Lehigh?
During my freshmen year, I became the charter member and engineering lead for Lehigh Hyperloop, an engineering group that competed internationally to create the world's first working prototype of Hyperloop transportation. At that point in time, no one had ever successfully executed this concept, but we believed that our team would make it happen. For a young group of engineers with little experience, Hyperloop was a highly ambitious pursuit. In this Hyperloop race, we weren't the most funded, most experienced, most supervised, nor luckiest. What we had were crazy ideas and a lot of fighting spirits. Through numerous challenges, Lehigh Hyperloop created one of the first working prototypes of Hyperloop transportation within just 16 months. Our prototype, HyperHawk, was 18 feet long and weighted 3,300 pounds!
While the team did not spin off HyperHawk into a company, we surely beat the game of our own. At SpaceX Hyperloop Competition in 2017, we were the only fully undergraduate group to enter the competition and even snatched the top-10 engineering design award (with Elon Musk's signature!) for ourselves against hundreds of international teams from renowned universities and private firms. Throughout the process, our team raised over $100k in cash and equipment from corporations including Boeing, Ingersoll Rand, Raytheon and Nvidia. We even got sponsorship from companies in Italy and Turkey, and was featured in the History Channel, among several other media.
Growing a functional team of engineers from scratch while teaching myself technical skills, among many other aspects of entrepreneurship, is a difficult challenge. Lehigh Hyperloop was, undoubtedly, an immense learning experience with lots of memories and friendship. If I have to choose ONE best entrepreneurial experience at Lehigh, it will be Lehigh Hyperloop.
* Hyperloop is a new mode of high-speed, inter-state transportation jointly proposed by Tesla and SpaceX in 2013.
** Spanned between 2015 and 2017, SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition was the first open competition that helps accelerate the development and prototype of Hyperloop concept.
What has been an entrepreneurial challenge that you've faced? How did you overcome it? In the context of Hyperloop, I think the biggest challenges were in managing member expectations and timing of funding. Since Hyperloop is a new vehicle concept with no proven course of action, everyday work was always faced with uncertainty and technical challenges. I learned that acting as a leader in this situation requires me to be as good of a listener as a communicator. When there is no clear path, it is crucial to gather collective experiences and involve the team in the decision making process. It is also important to clearly and frequently communicate with every member what their roles are and what I expect each member to deliver. Even though these roles and expectations may change over time, you cannot utilize one's strength without talking to them. Secondly, the timing of funding posed a serious threat to Hyperloop project. Since we were competing in the SpaceX competition, there were several technical deadlines to meet. However, there were periods of several months where we could not proceed with the plan due to the delay of funding. At one point, we received the intent of sponsorship, but the fund takes weeks to actually reach our account for use. Because of these kinds of situations, some tasks were delayed to allow members to focus on short-term fundraising. To deal with this diversion from important technical tasks, more people were recruited to directly handle fundraising and fund transfer.
What would you say to an incoming student about getting involved with entrepreneurship at Lehigh?
Definitely talk to Baker Institute! They are the most resourceful group of people about entrepreneurship at Lehigh. Go to the monthly EUREKA! Pitch Nights to learn about what other student entrepreneurs are doing. Baker Institute also offers many amazing programs such as The Hatchery, LehighSiliconValley, and Global Entrepreneurship Internships. Also, join the New Venture Club (NVC) -- a young student-run community for entrepreneurs. In the past few years, NVC provided several entrepreneurial opportunities including Startup Job Fair and Make-A-Thon. Check them out at the club fair or learn more at Baker Institute.
What are your plans after graduation?
I will return to Lehigh as a 5th-year student to finish my IBE and Materials Engineering degrees. During that time, I am planning to continue my part-time position at an IOT startup, Skillion Technology, as their materials engineer and financial analyst.