Two female Lehigh students wear VR goggles at CREATIVATE event

Innovation Shines at CREATIVATE

Lehigh’s Baker Institute hosts event to showcase student inventions, projects and businesses.

Photography by

Christa Neu

Lehigh students, staff and an alum showcased their inventions, projects and businesses Tuesday, Oct. 22, at CREATIVATE, an annual event sponsored by the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation and held this year in the Lehigh University Art Galleries Main Gallery in Zoellner Arts Center. 

Innovative students engaged with about 200 attendees, answering questions, explaining their ideas and displaying interactive prototypes to test. 

In all, 22 groups, primarily made up of students, presented their entrepreneurial endeavors, showcasing the creative drive of many members of the Lehigh community. 

Accessible Tests for Sickle Cell Anemia

The Global Social Impact Fellowship, a Mountaintop program, strives to create long-term differences in low-income countries. Ashleigh Crawford ’20, a bioengineering major, is a part of the technical entrepreneurship side of one project that aims to create a sickle cell anemia test strip.

“It's very similar to a pregnancy tester, but it's actually going to take a whole blood sample and detect sickle cell disease, sickle cell trait or normal healthy life,” said Crawford. “And our goal is to implement the device in low- and middle-income countries. For example, Sierra Leone is our target point to start off with.”

Olivia O’Donnell ’20, a bioengineering major who also works on the technical entrepreneurship side of the project, said the project is moving along quickly for having only begun a year ago. Despite their triumphs, however, Crawford explained that they still have a long way to go.

“At this point we still have a very basic prototype, not fully functional yet, but close,” Crawford said. “I think we could get a fully functioning prototype by the end of this academic year. But in terms of the whole venture, moving on I think it'll be at least three to five years before it's in actual production and implemented in the country specifically.”

A Social Media Network for Mealtimes

In the social media age, planning meals with friends can be a surprisingly difficult endeavor. Preff, an app created by a team of four Lehigh students, seeks to mitigate that and simplify the way in which people plan going out to eat. 

A team of Lehigh students presents their app at CREATIVATE

The Preff team presents its app at the event. 

Users can easily choose a group, location, and time on the app, post their invitation and receive responses from friends, the Preff team said. Will Peracchio ’21 explained that the goal is to create a community on Preff, which will then incentivize restaurants to sign up and be a part of the service. 

“We can essentially sell that to restaurants to basically provide [the opportunity for them to] tailor a better experience for groups that are coming in,” said Peracchio, who studies computer science and business. “So it's kind of a win-win, because you get to see your friends, and the restaurants essentially get more customers. So it’s been a really great thing.”

Preff is currently beta testing on the app TestFlight, but Peracchio said that it will reach the App Store tentatively by the start of the spring 2020 semester.

The app’s logo, a penguin, has symbolic meaning for the project.

“[Penguins] are really social, picky eaters,” Peracchio said. “[Preff] was just something potentially that they could use to be able to help themselves out.”

An Exhaust Accessory for Car Enthusiasts

Austin Huffman ’21 discovered a fundamental flaw for car enthusiasts, so he set out to fix it. 

“For people who like cars, sound is a very important touchpoint of enjoying driving,” Huffman said. “So...the problem that car people face is, they want [the car to be] loud, and everybody else around them hates when it's loud.”

Valvetronic device at Lehigh University CREATIVATE event

Device created by Valvetronic Designs

So Huffman decided to create a device that can be attached to a car and, at the touch of a button, control the vehicle’s noise level. As such, his company, Valvetronic Designs, was born: When the car is in loud mode, the valved exhaust system he created is open and the exhaust is able to flow right out of the car. However, in quiet mode, the exhaust is trapped within the device, preventing it from making any loud noises.

As Valvetronic Designs began to grow, Huffman sought the help of his roommate, Scott Gruninger ’20.

“I just brought this excellent man on because I'm terrible at managing my financials and such,” Huffman said. “So I need a man to help me with supply chain financials, and he's the guy.”

Said Gruninger: “Before I worked with Austin I had a 3-D printing business...And then, Austin and I, being roommates, we bounced ideas off of each other and he was like, ‘Why don't you come do this full time with me?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’”

Huffman is a supply chain management major, and Gruninger studies management consulting. 

“We’re on track to do $30,000 in sales this month...We don’t have any overheads because it’s just us,” Huffman said. “We outsource our manufacturing, and we build our supplies off site, so it doesn't cost us a bunch to make these systems, and it's just pushing marketing out. Getting my name out there is how we're going to [grow].”

Luxury Handbags for Charity

Lauren Farrell ’13 combined two of her passions to create luxury handbags for sports fans.

At Lehigh, Farrell studied design and entrepreneurship. 

“I remember that the entrepreneurs had this passion that was totally contagious and I said, ‘I have no idea what I want to do, but I want to be like them.’”

Farrell’s inspiration came about when she discovered a lack of fashionable bags on the market that met the strict regulations of sports centers. She decided to create a line of bags that met those restrictions, but still could appeal to the woman who loves fashion.

Lauren Farrell with handbags at Lehigh University CREATIVATE

Lauren Farrell ’13 poses with purses from her luxury brand, Lauren Farrell NY.

From that blossomed her luxury brand, Lauren Farrell NY, which has bags, totes and clutches. Recently, Farrell has been in contact with three different boutiques who have picked up her line. Additionally, she had a pop-up shop in New York City, which she said was an amazing opportunity.

“I had a pop-up shop in Seaport District in New York all summer long, which was awesome,” Farrell said. “Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe store was two doors down. [I was] next to Cynthia Rowley, so it was really exciting to kind of be on the map and [have] amazing exposure, [and to meet] firsthand women buying your bags.”

An especially important collection that Farrell designed is the Vienna Collection. After meeting the Savino family, who lost their 2-year-old daughter, Vienna, to Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC), she wanted to do something to help.

“We designed the collection in her honor. She was very much a little fashionista, wearing two or three different outfits a day. [The line spreads] awareness for SUDC, obviously [keeps] her memory alive, and then a portion of [the] proceeds goes back to their nonprofit [Team Vienna 4 SUDC Awareness].”

Additionally, proceeds from her sales benefit Deckers Dogs. The foundation raises money to rescue and train service dogs, which are then matched with a veteran facing physical or emotional hardships.

“Everything being U.S. made, I always wanted to help veterans, and so it was really nice to collaborate with them because [it is a] teeny tiny charity,” Farrell said. “You know exactly where the funds are going, and the fact that it involves...different touch points where you're helping different people, I thought it was really amazing.”

Story by Tabitha Nowak '23

Photography by

Christa Neu

Related Stories

Headshot of Brian Quispe

Baker Institute Funds Student Entrepreneurs in Annual Pitch Competition

Brian Quispe ’20 ’22G and Graham Patterson ’20 win the Joan F. and John M. Thalheimer ‘55 Grand Prize at Baker Institute’s annual award competitions.

Plate of food

Spotlight: Preff

A team of computer science and business (CSB) students creates a restaurant discovery app.


Immersed in Entrepreneurship

As Lehigh expands its presence on the West Coast, students participate in the latest LehighSiliconValley trip.