My Week in ESTEEM: January 27 - 31

Author: Caitlyn Ward

Caitlyn WardCaitlyn Ward

After a final hustle to finish validation interviews and the accompanying slide deck, this week was relatively calm compared to most. I was able to enjoy a bit more downtime while still focusing on next steps for my Capstone. 


I started off the week with Cold Brew Fuel (a startup founded by fellow ESTEEMer Nick Wilt) and the heavy bag in my basement (shout out to my sister for making an awesome mix of super motivating songs by female artists on Spotify). This fall, my roommate Allison and I trained for and competed in Baraka Bouts, Notre Dame’s women’s boxing tournament. The whole tournament was really fun and empowering, so having a heavy bag in the basement is the best. Later this morning, I headed to Innovation Park for my weekly check-in meeting with the thermoelectric team. As my Capstone project is a faculty research project, the technology is also currently going through the IDEA Center’s commercialization engine.  When it comes to brainstorming (which was a huge part of my project in the fall) I’m working with fellow ESTEEMers Livingstone Masango, Anthony Plochocki, and Joe Dooling, under the guidance of ESTEEM alum Ben Hoggan. We are all vetting different uses of the thermoelectric technology to find the best use while staying true to the inventor’s vision.

ESTEEM is a place where we share lots of ideas and interests, and today Ben and Anthony shared their love of sinfonic goth metal with us all. Even though I’m an avid country fan and was completely unaware sinfonic goth metal existed, it’s definitely something I could listen to. The day ended with our only ESTEEM class of the day, Launch Strategy. Today we talked about feasibility, which plays a huge role in my project and is aptly timed, as feasibility is probably the largest consideration going forward to determine the best use case for the technology. 


Tuesday and Thursday are the days I have my tech elective, Sustainable Performance in Heritage Architecture, with fellow ESTEEMer Sam Pasmann. I have always loved architecture and history, so I was really excited for this class. It’s taught by a team of three professors; two architects and a civil engineer. Today we learned how to calculate the insulation value of a wall, and what to consider for materials and placement of those materials when designing or renovating an energy efficient yet historically conscious building.  After class I headed back to IP and caught up on my job search. At IP there’s always another ESTEEMer around to proofread an email, lend advice or just listen, and today Katie Shannon and I both worked on job applications before our ESTEEM classes. 

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In our class taught by Theresa Foley, Funding New Ventures, we had a really interesting discussion about all things venture capital. In our Data Analytics class, we’re learning Tableau. As a visual learner, I love everything about data visualization and how to best represent multitudes of data points in an aesthetically pleasing yet logical way. Bonus, we get to use Mendoza’s computer lab, which has really low desks so those of us with long legs don’t fit too well, but has really cool pop-up computers. 


Today started with a walk around my neighborhood. I’m not much of a runner, but since the weather was milder today and I love to be outside, I decided my workout should take full advantage of that. My day started with a front-stage meeting with my project sponsor and the thermoelectric team. Anthony, Joe, Livingstone and I presented our validation findings from each of our tested product ideas, and next steps, which include more in-depth product testing and financial models. I work on campus as an athletic tutor, so after my weekly meeting with my student, I was back to IP for a brainstorm with my product development team. One thing I love about ESTEEM is how collaborative every class is, and how many ideas six to eight brains can come up with. After about an hour of work, I found myself with a bit of extra time for the evening. After lots of frozen meals and Panera, I decided tonight was a great chance to cook something worth eating for me and my roommate. We had a little roomie date night, watching our favorite, “New Girl,” which was much needed after a busy few weeks right after break.


In my architecture class we talked about sustainable choices of energy (solar, wind, geothermal) and how those are integrated well or not so well into the natural landscape or historic buildings. There are so many considerations when upgrading buildings, but the conversation got me thinking of the house I grew up in, which was built in 1906, and what we did to renovate the HVAC systems without sacrificing the historical integrity. 

Our product development class is project based, expanding upon a solution to an issue from our Corporate Innovation class in the fall. It’s also taught by our marketing professor Mike Kitz, who has a wealth of experience and starts every class with a funny cartoon! After class, a few of us headed to the grad student lounge (where there’s free coffee and peanut butter sandwiches) in Duncan to hang out before spin class. Every year, the ESTEEM class participates in a legacy project, and similar to the past few years, we are training to ride 300 miles over three days to raise money for the Ara Parseghian Foundation for Niemann Pick Type C. Though the workouts are tough, they’re led by fellow ESTEEMers and we always have a speaker that doubles as a disco ball, which makes it more bearable. 


As it was a slow week, I decided to take a solo trip to Chicago! I did a lot of solo travelling last year and haven’t done much since June, so I was looking forward to exploring a new city. Though it’s the middle of winter, and one might think I’m crazy for voluntarily subjecting myself to Chicago’s infamous weather, it was quite mild and made for a wonderful day. After I quickly accomplished my goal for the day, I took advantage of restaurant week and ate lunch at the Windsor. One thing I love about the Midwest is the food; fried cheese topped with more cheese? Brilliant! 

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After lunch I headed to the Driehaus Museum, a Gilded Age mansion once occupied by two prominent Chicago families. After various uses throughout the 20th century, the home was beautifully restored and donated to the city of Chicago by Richard Driehaus, who also sponsors a prize in classical architecture through Notre Dame. After my tour, I had an awesome conversation with my tour guide, Abby. We talked about the nature of cultural heritage and who decides what is preserved and conserved and in what manner, both agreeing preservation should include (and really focus on) the stories of the people who occupied the spaces. On my trip home, Spotify played the best mix of music. Not sure how it knows, but it always seems to know what to play at the right time, like one of my favorite songs “In Love By Now” by Riley Green. But instead of a girl in love with a new guy, I interpret it as a girl in love with her life.