By Siddharth Vodnala, intern, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
Kevin Wolfrom always knew he had an entrepreneur in him. He had been buying things from garage sales and selling them since he was a kid and used to spend hours scouring for deals on eBay. But watching the reality TV show Shark Tank as a teen gave him the push to taking entrepreneurship seriously.
Since then, Wolfrom has progressed from being an amateur teen entrepreneur to being the president of the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute at Washington State University, a three-semester program that provides students with exposure to real-world entrepreneurs and startups.
A chemical engineering senior at WSU, Wolfrom hopes to graduate in May and then attend law school to study intellectual property law, where he feels his engineering background could be an asset.
“Working with inventors to protect their ideas and being able to learn about new technology every day seems like it would be a fulfilling career,” Wolfrom said. Wolfrom hopes to satisfy his own entrepreneurial appetite by eventually starting his own patent law firm.
Wolfrom is originally from Kent, Washington and attended Highline College for his first two years of college. Wolfrom chose to transfer to WSU because of the collaborative nature of its academic programs.
Getting Involved on Campus
After transferring to WSU, Wolfrom met with Howard Davis, director of the Harold Frank Institute for Engineering Entrepreneurship, who encouraged him to apply to be a Harold Frank Scholar. Wolfrom was accepted into the program.
Wolfrom and other Frank Scholars spent a week visiting local and regional angel investors, business startups, and legal firms dealing with intellectual property, then visited the San Francisco Bay area, meeting with major companies like Google and Lockheed Martin. The students interacted with entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley startups like Konversai, an easy to use platform to teach or learn anything from experts online.
Wolfrom said his favorite part of the trip was going to visit the patent firm, Lee & Hayes, where he was able to talk with co-founder and WSU alumnus, Lewis Lee. “Being able to personally interact with the co-founder of such a large, successful company was an amazing, eye-opening experience. After the visit, I knew exactly what I wanted to do in life,” Wolfrom said. “Hearing about Lewis Lee’s journey from a WSU undergraduate student to the co-founder of a major corporation still motivates me to work hard today,” he added.
An active member of several organizations on campus, Wolfrom treasures the experiences he’s had at WSU.
“My experience at WSU has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in numerous leadership roles, gained lifelong friends, and obtained an excellent education,” Wolfrom said.
Wolfrom decided to be a student ambassador for the college in order to help prospective students discover the many opportunities the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture has to offer.
Advising Future Cougs
Wolfrom talks to prospective students, promoting the research conducted at the college and the many resources available to them.
“I try to highlight the collaborative nature of the college when talking with prospective students and parents. However, I never sugarcoat the difficulty involved with being an engineering student,” he said.
He also tells them things he wished he knew when he started at WSU.
“I tell students that as an engineer, you’ll need to be able to adapt to adverse circumstances and consistently sacrifice your time in order to succeed,” Wolfrom said. “Being able to learn new material at an efficient pace is one of the most important skills an engineer can have. As such, I always advise prospective students to figure out how they learn best as early as possible,” he said.
Wolfrom’s advice to students interested in entrepreneurship is to connect with resources on campus, such as the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute.
“An entrepreneurial mindset can be valuable in any major or job setting. Anyone could benefit from the entrepreneurial resources provided at WSU, regardless of their major,” Wolfrom said.
The Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute is a multidisciplinary program made up of junior and senior engineering, communications, and business students who are interested in technological entrepreneurship. Applications for the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute are live now! Students with demonstrated initiative and a desire to have impact through their service and career are encouraged to apply to the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute by September 9 of their junior year (four semesters to graduation).