Kiera Rust is always looking for more ways to get involved. With a unique set of skills, she found a unique opportunity within Washington State University’s Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute.

The Harold Frank program is made up of WSU junior and senior engineering, communications, and business students who are interested in technological entrepreneurship. Working in interdisciplinary teams, students learn to manage uncertainty, design, perfect their presentation skills, work with real fiscal and technical constraints, and develop technologies to solve real problems.

Rust applied her experience with the Frank program on her senior capstone project, where she worked with a team of other students to create a startup company aimed at creating a better laser tag experience for users. They found their competitors have extremely poorly designed the experience.

Kiera Rust standing next to Samantha Grindrod who is holding a prototype of their laser tag blaster.
Rust and classmate Samantha Grindrod demonstrate their product at the Voiland College Capstone Expo.

“The insight we came up with revealed that the appeal of laser tag is about the experience of the players and the people at the event,” said clinical associate professor Aaron Crandall, Rust’s capstone project mentor. “Anything that fosters and grows the experience is what is most valuable to our customers—laser tag arena operators.”

Rust focused on the business side of the project, including participating in WSU’s annual Business Plan Competition.

“It’s my favorite thing ever,” said Rust. “It is part of the reason why I love the Harold Frank program so much.”

Rust says she’s learned many skills through the Frank program during her time at WSU, including customer discovery, how a business works, as well as presentation, sales, and communication skills.

“I learned how to walk into a room, take the temperature, and position myself accordingly,” she said. “I am really lucky to have been in the program.”

“People who succeed in the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship program want more than to just get a college degree,” said Crandall. “They are going to be more energetic, more outgoing, and have a larger view of the world. It is always a pleasure to work with them because they are a very driven group.”

Rust, who recently graduated with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in business administration, is an ambassador and advocate for the program. She encourages others to step outside their comfort zone to participate.

“People get into this mode where they believe that engineering is hard enough already,” she said. “It is hard, but are you really pushing yourself in your other skills? Join clubs, apply for jobs, and get out of your comfort zone.”