Lucas Abbott

Test prep to health care

Class gives budding entrepreneur a step-by-step guide to overcoming problems 

Lucas Abbott, a junior in chemical engineering, has long wanted to go into pharmaceuticals and health care. But he also has had a long-abiding interest in starting his own enterprise.

By his freshman year, when he had yet to make progress on his goals, Abbott told himself, “You know, if I’m really serious about this, the best thing I can do is just start a business.”

So he solicited advice from a friend with a degree in entrepreneurial management and began work on an education app he called Chronicle that helps students prepare for tests.

As he was developing it, Abbott met Kirk Froggatt, the College of Science and Engineering’s Gemini Chair in Technology Management who told him about his technology innovation class.

“It seemed really the area I wanted to go into, this blend between business and management, and science and technology,” Abbott said.

“The majority of the classes that I’ve taken have either been 100 percent technical based or 100 percent business and management based,” he noted. “This class was unique because it blended those two together. There’s the technology base—can you actually pull this off? Then the commercial aspect— is there actually some sort of a problem? Are we actually creating value? If you have a problem out there that has a big enough market, that’s when you really get to successful products.”

Abbott took his newfound knowledge and continued refining his app.

“Chronicle gives students questions about their course material and then they verbally respond out loud as if they were teaching someone else about the subject,” he said.

“There’s a lot of research that goes into this idea that when you say something out loud you remember it a lot better,” Abbott explained.

This spring, Abbott studied a group of students to see how well the app prepared them for a high school Advanced Placement psychology exam.

He and his development team of Reed Anderson, Jacob Abbott (CompSci ’22), and Lukas Hajdukiewicz will evaluate its effectiveness this summer, based on test scores and the students’ sense of “self-efficacy” or understanding.

Abbott, a recipient of the University of Minnesota Iron Range and Donald L. Johnson Scholarships, said he would recommend Froggatt’s course, even to students for whom starting a business is not a top priority.

“I think just understanding the process of being innovative and trying to commercialize new technology instills a lot of confidence in students,” he said.

But the class gave him a new framework for viewing problems.

“It really gives you a step-by-step guide to overcome some pretty big problems and challenges,” said Abbott, who hopes to work at a biotechnology or pharmaceutical startup company. “So, as I go forward now entering the technical realm, I’m confident I can come up with novel and valuable ideas.”

Story by Greg Breining

Read about two other students who took Froggatt’s “Leading Breakthrough Technology Innovation” course:

Stephen Mylabathula: Prototype to market

Ashtynn Trauth: The right pitch

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