The BYU Crocker Innovation Fellows program offers student teams funding and guidance to create business-oriented solutions.
The organization is more commonly referred to as the Crocker Fellowship program. Teams of six students are organized with members from mechanical engineering, industrial design, business, computer science and electrical engineering majors. One team member is also from any miscellaneous major on campus.
Industrial design professor Bryan Howell has worked as one of the mentoring faculty members in the program for five years. He said the Crocker Fellowship program is a sponsored year-long course that starts in January and ends in December. It is financed by Gary and Ann Crocker, entrepreneurs who ask these interdisciplinary teams to focus on innovation processes.
Howell said the multidisciplinary aspect of the organization is crucial because each student from their respective majors has a different skill set they add to the team’s value and project.
“It’s only in that overlap in the disciplines that contemporary, thoughtful and meaningful innovation occurs,” he said. Faculty members expect the teams to find an opportunity to help people better their lives by creating a product.
One product is Skapa, a companion app designed to help parents and autistic children create better routines.
Chemical engineering major Jacob Buhler, mechanical engineering major Spencer Curtis and industrial design major Connor Lindsey created the Skapa app. Skapa gives parents and caretakers a hand-held tool to help autistic children sleep and complete tasks.
Lindsey said the Crocker Fellowship was instrumental in what the team could accomplish with Skapa. Professors from all across campus offered the team their experience and knowledge on how the app could be continuously improved.
Buhler said Skapa’s purpose is “to help parents of autistic neurodiverse children track their routines and rewards.” Buhler and the team saw a lack of simple, inexpensive options for helping autistic children solve problems and stick to daily routines.
Buhler had lots of experience at ScenicView Academy, a home for autistic young adults, from 2017 to 2020. These volunteer hours overlapped with his time in the Crocker Fellowship program, he said.
The Skapa app is based on his and the other students’ desire to enhance the lives of autistic children who don’t have easy access to expensive or distant schools like ScenicView, he said.
As a parent himself, Lindsey said he knows how hard bedtime can be with two non-autistic children. He hopes Skapa offers hope and peace to parents, caretakers, teachers and student aids whose aim is to help autistic children grow.
“I have loved finding an elegant solution to help these people in their daily lives and getting to work closely with them,” Lindsey said about their test group’s experience with Skapa.
He said they’ve gotten great feedback from all users about how Skapa really has made bedtime a much easier, calm task. Users can find Skapa being used in many local school districts. It is available on the iOS and Android app stores.
The Skapa team presented the routine-promotion app for autistic children at the 2021 Student Innovator of the Year Competition and received third place.
The biggest thing Lindsey has learned from his experience at the Crocker Fellowship program and by creating Skapa is that entrepreneurship is truly about helping people.
“Looking at it practically, we start businesses so people will pay for a problem to be solved. But really, it all comes down to service. It’s about serving people that we care so much about,” he said.
Howell’s greatest joy is similar to Lindsey’s, and an added blessing from working for the Crocker Fellowship has been the relationships he’s developed with students and clients during the project.
Relationships with students in different majors have developed and lasted long after they graduate from the program, Howell said. He and the other faculty members in the program are all passionate about seeing new knowledge come to life.
“I will never get enough of seeing the process these students go through to create really useful and meaningful products that make the world a better place,” he said.
Students who hope to apply for the program should go to the Crocker Fellowship website to find out more about the application process, Howell said. Future applicants should be highly skilled in their discipline and bring a high level of expertise to a team setting.
Howell said the mentors are looking for students who communicate well with others and have experience collaborating with people from other fields.