Crew Weunski (ESTEEM '21)
Hello, and thank you for checking out this blog!
My name is Crew Weunski, and I am from Erie, PA. I have a background in physics from John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH (go Blue Streaks!). I came to ESTEEM because I want to combine my background in physics with creativity and innovation to fix things that matter in the fields of medicine and education.This past week has been one of my busiest at ESTEEM so far—and busy is a good thing! From our technology review report for the capstone project to working on a side hustle and going to class, there are many interesting things that happened this week. Here is a quick overview of what each day looked like!
I like to start my mornings off very early to get a head start on my day. I used Monday morning as a great opportunity to work on my Technology Review report for my capstone project. This deliverable is a deep dive into the technology behind our capstone sponsor’s product/service, and I have been really enjoying learning about my sponsor’s holographic imaging technology. For my capstone project, I am working with MediView XR, a medical device startup company based in Cleveland, OH. Their mission is to revolutionize surgical navigation and telehealth through augmented reality technology and real-time remote collaboration.
I was in a unique position where I have worked with MediView for almost two years prior to ESTEEM. Most students that come to ESTEEM go through a process of applying and interviewing for different capstone projects. Although, if you have experience working with a company and they are willing to sponsor a project for you, the ESTEEM staff is a huge help in evaluating if it would be a good fit and making it happen!
Monday was also very exciting because I am currently working on a side project—ilimi XR—that addresses the needs of students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia that struggle with remote/hybrid learning through VR technology. I am working on this idea with two of my classmates, Sereen and Emma, and we had our very first meeting with a startup coach! The startup coaches are employed by the IDEA Center and are great resources for students that have ideas and are looking for guidance and feedback on getting their business idea off the ground. Our startup coach was great, and offered very insightful tips. He also recommended that we check out the six-week accelerator program for new ventures at the IDEA Center, so we will be looking into applying soon!
After lunch, I had a meeting with a software developer from MediView to learn about how their technology works on the software side. I have been lucky to have a very good experience thus far with people wanting to assist in my Capstone project! After this, it was time for my ESTEEM classes. Luckily, we are back to in-person classes this week, as Notre Dame has been handling the pandemic extremely effectively and has many procedures in effect to keep students, faculty and staff safe. At 4:00 I had my first class of the day–leadership! If you read Lauren’s blog post from a few weeks ago, I will echo what she said: I was not expecting to enjoy the leadership class as much as I am. Lawrence, our professor, creates an extremely engaging environment for us to learn. For example, last week we heard from Alex Liggins Sejdinaj, a guest speaker that told us her entrepreneurial story of how she started three businesses and is making an impact through South Bend Code School. After Leadership, it was time for Entrepreneurial Immersion. This class has been a fantastic hands-on experience of going through a design sprint, as outlined by Google Ventures here. We are working in teams to go through a sprint in which you quickly build out an idea and test it with potential customers. Our idea is focused around making tailgates safer for football fans during a pandemic. Entrepreneurial Immersion ends at 7 p.m., and at this point I am done with meetings/class for the day–time for dinner!
I love to cook, so I use every opportunity I can to make something yummy (quarantine has definitely helped refine my cooking skills)! Today I made prosciutto-wrapped lamb burgers, and after dinner I continued to work on my technology review deliverable.
I started Tuesday morning off with a meeting for my capstone project. In addition to the capstone work, we are also working on submitting a grant proposal, which is an exciting opportunity to get to contribute to! The rest of my morning was fairly relaxed, and I used this as an opportunity to polish off my technology review. We have a technical business presentations course Tuesday afternoons, where we receive tips on how to successfully pitch to investors and win funding. After the business presentations class, we have a course called Technical Marketing. Professor Kitz has provided us with the critical skills to segment the market, target the appropriate customers, and position our product within our capstone projects or side hustles.
Speaking of side hustles, our team for ilimi XR had a few action items we tackled this week. We have a solid grasp on our problem and have interviewed a lot of people, but needed to nail down who the exact customer would be and what exact needs of that customer we can address in a first prototype. Per our discussion with our startup coach, we began planning a pitch deck to present during the IDEA Center’s Friday pitch sessions next week—a great opportunity for students to receive recommendations, feedback, or even money for their ideas.
Wednesday started off with finishing the first draft of my technology review, which was a great accomplishment! Our only class on Wednesdays right now is Leadership, in which we talked about how mission and values shape an organization. After that, I had a meeting with a UX Designer from my capstone sponsor MediView. I am starting to move into the phase of the capstone project of performing validation interviews with 50 potential customers. This UX Designer has been very instrumental and helpful with giving feedback on an interview guide I have been drafting and hypotheses about the problem and solution that I hope to have validated/invalidated through my interviews. Around 7:00 p.m., I FaceTimed my family since it was my mom’s birthday! I am very grateful for my parent’s constant support to get me where I am today. After talking with them, I relaxed at night by making dinner and watching Parks and Recreation.
Thursday was my busiest day of the week. Due to the upcoming holiday weekend, my capstone sponsor and I were trying to polish off most of the draft for the grant by Friday—so I spent the majority of the morning working on that project. For our side project, we had a meeting with a Computer Science professor on campus who has lots of experience in the education field and VR industry. He offered very useful advice for moving forward and was extremely willing to provide feedback on our idea. At 11:00 a.m. we had our “Innovations in Cancer Research” technical elective class. We had a guest speaker from the Harper Cancer Research Institute that focuses on studying intracellular pH and its effects on the body, including cancer. I enjoy this class because I am a physicist—not a biologist—yet the material of this class is presented in such a way that you don’t need a background in biology to learn and be engaged with the class.
After this class, I had a weekly capstone project call with my sponsor to update on progress within the past week. Then, I went to Innovation Park for our last class of the day: Entrepreneurial Immersion Lab. We used this class to build out a prototype and interview guide for the “sprint” our team is doing. Next week, we will be talking to potential customers and testing the prototype with them. Thursday night, I was able to catch up with a friend I worked at the Cleveland Clinic with during undergrad—which was the perfect way to unwind after a busy day. To finish off Thursday, a couple of friends came over to work on a case study for market sizing. After this, I peer reviewed a few of my classmates’ technology review papers and went to bed.
I used Friday morning to put finishing touches on our grant proposal we are submitting through my capstone sponsor. After this, we had a workshop on market sizing and segmentation at Innovation Park—in which we discussed how to split a market into distinct groups that you can target your product/solution to. Friday evening was very enjoyable—my friend came over and we baked Mexican hot chocolate cookies, and we only burned a few! One of the ESTEEM students had a movie night at her apartment, where a small group of seven of us were able to hang out (with masks and physical distancing, of course) and watch a movie.
Overall, this week was decently fast-paced and busy. That’s often how it can be in the world of entrepreneurship, especially in startups. But I wouldn’t have it any other way—I love the challenge of working in a fast paced environment, making close connections and friendships with my ESTEEM classmates, and learning in such a hands-on way. If any of those sound interesting to you or if you want to make an impact by fixing things that matter, ESTEEM may be the perfect place for you.
If you have any questions about my ESTEEM experience, feel free to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn and I am happy to help you along your journey!