In our Senior Send-Off series, the Dingman Center celebrates the student founders who are part of the graduating class of spring 2020. We are so pleased to have had the chance to get to know each of these talented entrepreneurs through our programs.
Founder & CEO – Charles Grody ’20, mechanical engineering major
CTO – Jack Sturtevant ’20, computer engineering major
Lead Engineer – Tuvia Rappaport ’20, aerospace engineering major
The Hydraze team, comprised of three QUEST Honors Program students, has taken University of Maryland by storm with their engineered solution to the “phantom flushes” caused by inefficient automatic flushing toilets. After piloting the Hydraze flushing mechanism in The Clarice, they won the 2019 Do Good Challenge, then Hult@UMD — our local edition of the global Hult Prize social entrepreneurship case competition — and now have made it to the final round of Pitch Dingman Competition. The team will be competing in the virtual Pitch Dingman Competition Finals next week, on April 22 from 4-6 p.m. live via Zoom. Don’t miss this last chance to support them!
Where are you headed after graduation?
Charles: I’ll spend the following summer months working for Hydraze full time. In the fall I will move to Illinois to work at ExxonMobil as a mechanical contact engineer. I’ve always wanted to be a mechanical engineer, even before college, so I am looking forward the chance to fulfill that dream.
Jack: A startup in Mountain View called Applied Intuition that is making simulation software for autonomous vehicles.
Tuvia: Lockheed Martin Space in Northern Virginia.
What’s something you’ll really miss about UMD?
Charles: THE PEOPLE! Whether they were friends, professors, or faculty of programs like the Do Good Institute or Dingman, the most inspiring people I’ve ever met are on this campus. Everybody has a fascinating story of how they got here, and their accomplishments challenge me to be the best possible version of myself.
Jack: I’m really going to miss all my friends at UMD, and how easy it was to see everyone. I lived within walking distance of all of my closest friends, and now I’m going to be across the country from most of them.
Tuvia: The QUEST community.
What was your favorite part about competing in Pitch Dingman Competition?
Charles: The coaching. I can’t recall how many mentors I’ve met through Dingman Fridays, the finalist workshops, and of course, the Dingman Staff, but each one opens my perspective to entrepreneurship more. Coming into this year and the Pitch Dingman Competition, I felt like a mechanical engineer working to make the best possible product. I now have a much better sense of what customers and investors look for in a business, how to put together financial projections, and how to present my business to different audiences. I came into Pitch Dingman Competition an engineer and I will be leaving as an entrepreneur.
Jack: My favorite part about Pitch Dingman Competition was all the coaching sessions. I learned so much from these short sessions, and made some great connections.
Tuvia: Getting product and pitch feedback from the Dingman team and our coach Adam.
What advice would you give to student entrepreneurs just getting started?
Charles: Anybody can be an entrepreneur. You don’t need a “good idea,” a special skillset, or experience. All you need is to find a problem you care about, and have the will to solve it. Your persistence and drive are the only tools you need to find that good idea, teach you the necessary skills to make it work, and seek out the people who can help you make the idea a difference maker.
Jack: Some advice I have for student entrepreneurs is to identify all the on campus resources they have. Between the different colleges there are many programs, like Pitch Dingman Competition, that look to support student entrepreneurs. Additionally, look for professors that have expertise in the area their company works. Professors love to talk about their work, especially with students.
Tuvia: Find mentors and advisors.
What’s next for Hydraze?
Team: After this semester is over, Hydraze will prepare to scale the business. We have 5 beta customers lined up, three at the university and two at commercial locations, and we plan to deliver them products by the beginning of the summer (or whenever they reopen). Additionally, because we are close to finalizing our product designs, we will select manufactures and develop the infrastructure to build our products on the scale of thousands. Finally, we will build out our sales team to start expanding our reach beyond the state of Maryland.