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Pedal to the mettle

(July 1, 2015)—Some kids spend their summers at the pool. Others? They’re testing their chops at becoming the next great problem solvers at the University of Utah’s Innovation Week at the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.

There’s no horseback riding, campfire sing-a-longs or arts-and-crafts projects at these camps. There is plenty of fun — in the form of helping middle and high school students learn how to find a problem and brainstorm possible ideas to meet an unfulfilled need in the community or marketplace. The camps allow students to practice the skills of identifying problems, proposing and testing solutions and ideas. One day, students may put that skillset to use by becoming an entrepreneur who oversees a product move from idea to reality.

The first camp, for ages 15 to 18, Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset, is designed to give teens a jump start to the world of college and how innovation can become a part of their future academic lives. Students will visit research and innovation labs on campus and meet professors and students who will share experiences with them. The camp runs from July 3-9. Openings are still available and students can register through youth education at 801-581-6984 or

The second camp, for ages 13 to 15, Giving Your Passion a Purpose, is designed to help younger teens learn how they can take a great idea and turn their vision into reality. They too visit research and innovation labs on campus and will be exposed to the framework of discovering how to become an innovator and entrepreneur. Students will work with a team to design and develop a creative new product and will also practice promoting and pitching their ideas to potential investors. The camp runs from July 13-19.

“Innovation Week is a great way for the University of Utah to meet the next generation of entrepreneurial students. It is also a great way for these students to see that the University of Utah is uniquely positioned to help them take their innovative ideas to the next level,” said Kathy Hajeb, director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, a division of the David Eccles School of Business at the U.

“Entrepreneurship is more than just a business model, it is a way of thinking and a mindset. As we instill a sense of creative problem solving and ability to tackle important issues in our students, we are building a solid foundation for student success.”

Hajeb noted that the camps, now in their third year, have grown larger each year.

The camps are also a way to reach out to a community that may want to pursue future endeavors at the U’s new Lassonde Studios, set to open in fall 2016. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute already has a world-class reputation as a place where students can advance their business and product ideas while fulfilling a college degree.

Lassonde Studios takes that concept to the next level, through constructing a place where young entrepreneurs can live with felllow future game-changers who push each other to think more, to be more and to do more. It will be a place for young visionaries to have an around-the-clock environment to bounce ideas off of others who also are working through plans that may one day become the next cutting-edge technology. The 160,000-square-foot Lassonde Studios will have a 20,000-square-foot innovation garage on the main floor of the residence hall, complete with 3-D printers, laser cutters, prototyping tools and company launch space. Above will be four floors of housing, with students allowed to choose between pods, lofts and traditional rooms.

This past spring, Lassonde Studios launched a nationwide search for the 400 best student entrepreneurs, who will become the first group to live in the state-of-the-art, $45 million facility and have an opportunity to earn up to $3 million in scholarships.

“We are investing in the student experience to make the University of Utah the place to be for aspiring entrepreneurs and to develop skills needed in today’s marketplace,” said Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. “We already have a top-ranked entrepreneurship program, and our new facility will provide an even more unique, immersive experience. We invite students everywhere to grow with us and are excited that our newly created Innovation Week will introduce our amazing program to budding teenage entrepreneurs in our region.”

The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute began in 2001 through the vision and support of Pierre Lassonde, an alumnus of the University of Utah and successful mining entrepreneur. He has donated $25 million to support the Lassonde Institute and help build the Lassonde Studios. The educational experience at Lassonde is a unique aspect to higher education. To learn more, visit