The ShermCast

The Academics and 10 Year Celebration of the Sherman Center!

April 13, 2024 Sherman Center Season 10 Episode 5
The Academics and 10 Year Celebration of the Sherman Center!
The ShermCast
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The ShermCast
The Academics and 10 Year Celebration of the Sherman Center!
Apr 13, 2024 Season 10 Episode 5
Sherman Center

Welcome to the final episode of Season 10 of the ShermCast! In this episode, co-hosts Liam MacMahon and Andrew Han interview the Head of Academic Initiatives here at the Sherman Center, Professor Mark Sivak. Join them as they learn more about Professor Sivak's journey through Northeastern that brought him to the Sherman Center, his personal entrepreneurial experience, and the courses offered at the Center as well as discuss some exciting upcoming events commemorating the 10 year anniversary of the Sherman Center. To learn more check out the following links:

Mark Sivak:


Check out more of the Sherman Center here:
Follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn @nushermancenter
Head to our website for all episodes and transcripts-
Subscribe to our newsletter-

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to the final episode of Season 10 of the ShermCast! In this episode, co-hosts Liam MacMahon and Andrew Han interview the Head of Academic Initiatives here at the Sherman Center, Professor Mark Sivak. Join them as they learn more about Professor Sivak's journey through Northeastern that brought him to the Sherman Center, his personal entrepreneurial experience, and the courses offered at the Center as well as discuss some exciting upcoming events commemorating the 10 year anniversary of the Sherman Center. To learn more check out the following links:

Mark Sivak:


Check out more of the Sherman Center here:
Follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn @nushermancenter
Head to our website for all episodes and transcripts-
Subscribe to our newsletter-

Liam [00:00:09] Hello! Welcome to season ten, episode five of the ShermCast. I'm Liam MacMahon. 


Andrew [00:00:14] And I'm Andrew Han. 


Liam [00:00:15] And today, in the final episode of season ten, we got a jam packed episode for you all here today. So up first we're going to be talking about some recent events and some upcoming events for the Sherman Center, including the ten year Sherman Center celebration with the Generate Showcase. And we also got an interview with Mark Sivak. So we got a jam packed episode for you all here today. So let's get straight into the first part. So for our first topic of conversation, we're going to be starting with the Generate Showcase. That is going to be this April 19th. So next Friday and we're going to be celebrating some of the ventures that have gone through Generate this year. So Andrew, can you tell us what exactly generate is for the audience out there? 


Andrew [00:00:52] In case you don't know what Generate is, it is Northeastern's student led product development studio, whose mission is to build an inclusive community that educates students to professional work, cultivates lasting relationships, and inspires entrepreneurs. 


Liam [00:01:06] They've been going through a lot of hard work through this semester, and we're going to be going through each of these groups in a second. But the showcase is going to be the celebration of a semester's worth of entrepreneurship, progress and innovation across the organization. Generate is going to be celebrating the ten year anniversary of the Sherman Center, and the hardware and software teams have collaborated with clients throughout the semester in order to help their needs and build products. So let's just get straight into the first of our organization. So, Andrew, can you tell us what our first software group is? 


Andrew [00:01:38] Our first software group is Algo. The social brokerage app helps individuals become portfolio managers and start getting into trading. They make it very customizable and very easy for beginners to get into trading, which is usually a very difficult task. 


Liam [00:01:54] Yeah, I have no clue how to get into that, so that could definitely be useful for me. And speaking of, things are way too relevant for me. Our next one is Coupet. So this is going to be an app that helps the dating process go on dates easier for its users, and the users can organize and select their dates based on factors like common interest, price, duration, and potentially organize the date together. 


Andrew [00:02:17] You could definitely use that since you've been, you know, trying to get into the dating world Liam I'm going to go yep, yep. EmTech Care is an app that helps simplify family caregiving for older adults with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. 


Liam [00:02:32] Very sciencey, very nice. And speaking of sciencey, our next one is to Tubender, which is working specifically with portable and affordable CNC tube bending machines for small businesses, contractors and hobbyists that will need these tubes for functional and artistic purposes. So they've been working on getting the machine built, and they've also been working on an app as well. That could help make this tube bending process more easily accessible to these people. 


Andrew [00:02:58] Well, next we have Student Activity Calendar. Mostly for Boston students, and it helps students see events, clubs, performances and activities and whatever else that's going on on campus. Students can also use this app to promote their events and try to engage more people through social media. 


Liam [00:03:15] I can tell you personally, I've no clue when anything is going on in this campus. 


Andrew [00:03:19] No, it's usually like some newsletter, but there's so many events listed on there. You're like, whoa, there's so much stuff. 


Liam [00:03:25] Ya'll read newsletters over here. 


Andrew [00:03:27] Yeah, you know, the ones you get in an email that you kind of look up, you're like, and it doesn't look like it's for me. 


Liam [00:03:33] Oh, that also implies that I've been checking my email. 


Andrew [00:03:36] Yes. Always check your email. 


Liam [00:03:39] I think we do a good enough job for that. You see I know like my two clubs but that's it. Also, it feels like the performances, I've never have any idea what's going on in campus because I heard some people talk about like, oh yeah, we've got concerts here at Matthews Arena. I'm like. 


Andrew [00:03:52] What? 


Liam [00:03:53] What did you know? There's concert at Matthews Arena? 


Andrew [00:03:57] Usually it's some of my friends that goes, are you going to see this concert at Matthews Arena? And I say, what? What? And then I know. 


Liam [00:04:06] Did you actually go to the recent concert? 


Andrew [00:04:09] If it's not a person that I usually know or that I'm a fan of. Then I usually don't go. 


Liam [00:04:15] You're aware of Big Golden, though, right? 


Andrew [00:04:17] Big Golden. Yeah. Yeah, always go to Big Golden in this podcast.


Liam [00:04:21] Exactly. Speaking of Big Golden, of course, we got Cooper in the Sherm recently. That's gonna be the highlight of our new segment upcoming. 


Andrew [00:04:28] And that was also the highlight of our Instagram. 


Liam [00:04:31] Exactly. Also, by the way, speaking of Cooper, for three of my four classes now I have incorporated that photo of me and Cooper into like my projects. 


Andrew [00:04:41] And how that turned out. 


Liam [00:04:42] So for marketing with my Cooper and me together, obviously the most adorable photo around, we got the best grade in the class, best presentation grade in class. Because think about it, if you don't give me the best grade in class, then you hate dogs and you hate golden retrievers. True. 


Andrew [00:05:00] That is sound logic there. 


Liam [00:05:02] Exactly. Then we also did for my health comm presentation today. And of course, everyone loved the favorite golden retriever duo of me and Cooper. And also I said if I don't get an A on this project you probably hate Cooper as well. 


Andrew [00:05:15] You are a genius. 


Liam [00:05:16] Exactly. So I think we're locked in for an A for those ones. And then for my presentation yesterday, my professor did not seem to be amused by the fact that during cross-examination, I was just pulled up a picture of me and Cooper had flipped it around. Yeah, he didn't see nearly as amused as the rest of class was. To be fair, my presentation was pretty amazing besides that. So I think we got away with that. Now we just need to find a way to incorporate Cooper to my last presentation for Spanish. So we're going to be working on that. 


Andrew [00:05:45] You're going to say golden retriever is very good in Spanish. 


Liam [00:05:49] Los golden retrievers son muy buenos. 


Andrew [00:05:51] Si si. 


Liam [00:05:52] Yo necesito un a porque yo incorporato los golden Retrievers. 


Andrew [00:05:58] Nice. I haven't learn Spanish in a couple years, but, you know, that seems pretty good. 


Liam [00:06:03] Exactly. I'm pretty sure golden retrievers is just gold retrievers in Spanish. Speaking of, by the way, did you realize we also had hardware for our upcoming Generate showcase as well.


Andrew [00:06:15] My goodness, I didn't know that. 


Liam [00:06:17] Yeah, we were too busy to talk about golden Retrievers. 


Andrew [00:06:19] And the software team. 


Liam [00:06:20] Mostly golden retrievers. Yep. So do you mind getting to our first hardware group? 


Andrew [00:06:24] Right. Our first hardware group is Muscle, a device that helps people recovering from ACL injuries visualize their muscle recovery process. For people that don't know what's going on, want to have a closer inspection of what's going on with their body. 


Liam [00:06:40] And then our next one, we had Ryan come up here earlier this semester and talk about this product as well with FuFu Pot, which is basically helping make the process of cooking fufu easier to the point where it's almost automated. And then Ryan mentioned this earlier, but fufu is a staple food in African cuisines and has been known to be a previously very time consuming process to make. So this venture is trying to make it more convenient and more easy to make fufu. 


Andrew [00:07:06] Both for people who just want to make it, and for businesses that require the process of making fufu. Next, we have Concrete. This device can help detect and map out concrete delaminations  and unsound concrete for structural engineers to use in condition assessments. 


Liam [00:07:22] You're doing engineering, right, Andrew? 


Andrew [00:07:24] Yes, that then sounds pretty useful. You know, if you want to maintenance and you're let's say your on a bridge and the bridge is unsound, you want to make sure that stuff is looking good because you don't want cars falling into the river. 


Liam [00:07:39] And then finally, our final one is WaveWise, which is going to be an aquaculture system designed to help Maine's aquatic farmers help them more efficiently and sustainably grow kelp. 


Andrew [00:07:49] This could be used in junction with, one of our previous podcast guests PhytaBar since they did use kelp for their snack. 


Liam [00:08:00] Speaking of PhytaBar, they also recently are about to launch their product for one, and they had a recent event coming up where they had samples of Phytabar coming into the IDEA lab specifically, which is right by the Sherman Center as well. And we had Bella, which is the CEO of IDEA, on a previous interview last semester. So they're getting really close to their launch right now, and they're currently in the pre-ordering process. So it's good to see our current ventures that we are interviewing have success with their companies and being so close to launching. 


Andrew [00:08:28] Yeah, it's really great for them. I've seen their posters plastered all over the Sherman Center. It's been great to see them go from where works for them and up to almost launching their new product. 


Liam [00:08:39] Exactly. So which of the upcoming hardware or software products are you most looking forward to coming up Andrew? 


Andrew [00:08:46] You know, I am a big fan of food, so I was very, very interested in this PhytaBar and the tastiness and the health aspect of that. What about you, Liam? 


Liam [00:08:56] You see, I feel like I need to be a big finance bro, because if you just look at me, I just scream finance bro as it is. So therefore, I think Algo is going to help me finally become the finance bro I need to become. 


Andrew [00:09:06] Yeah. Who can stop you now? You got the finances and the muscles. 


Liam [00:09:10] Exactly. So what were your thoughts about Cooper in the Sherm. Oh, wait. You couldn't be there. 


Andrew [00:09:14] Cooper in the Sherm? I just couldn't be there. I had classes, and then I had to go to work right afterwards. So unfortunately, I could not see Cooper. But your picture and your video with Cooper seemed pretty nice. 


Liam [00:09:27] Yes. You could find a full interview of me interviewing Cooper, of course. On the NU Sherman Center Instagram at nushermancenter. So if you need to see a golden retriever interview another golden retriever, that is your spot to go. We obviously should have upload more photos of just us with Cooper as well, because those are the most adorable photos around as evident by my class presentations. 


Andrew [00:09:48] Yeah, it works pretty darn well. 


Liam [00:09:51] But you really should have skipped class in order to see Cooper. 


Andrew [00:09:54] I should have, but you know, it was one of those classes that had attendance tracking. 


Liam [00:09:59] But priorities. 


Andrew [00:10:00] Yeah. I should have gone to seen Cooper.  


Liam [00:10:02] Exactly. 


Andrew [00:10:04] My priorities were messed up. 


Liam [00:10:05] Think about it. If you were to show up to class with a picture of Cooper on your lap, your professor would have excused you immediately. 


Andrew [00:10:12] Yeah, definitely. 


Liam [00:10:16] Andrew just doesn't get the power of a golden retriever in your life. But luckily for all of you out here, you obviously understand the power of a golden retriever. So we got through our upcoming events. We did some recap of some recent events. So, up next we get to have our interview with Mark Sivak. So let's just get straight into the interview. 


Andrew [00:10:35] Up next, we have the pleasure of interviewing Mark Sivak, a professor here at Northeastern University who is the Division Head of Creative Media as part of CAMD and as the Head of Academic Initiatives as part of the Sherman Center. How are you doing today, Professor Sivak? 


Mark [00:10:48] Good. Yeah, but a long day. But I'm here. 


Liam [00:10:52] So before we get into your various roles and the specific things that you do, is there anything else that you want to tell the audience about yourself? 


Mark [00:10:59] Sure. Yeah. I mean, you know, it's a I am a triple husky, like a, you know. So I've been here at Northeastern. I started as an undergrad in 2002. My bachelor's and master's are in mechanical engineering, and then my PhD is in interdisciplinary engineering. And then I was hired into the faculty after I finished my PhD in 2012. And, for the next couple years, I taught mostly in the College of Arts media and design, mostly in the game design program, and then I was jointly appointed back in the College of Engineering, where I taught, the precursor to cornerstone, what now exists as cornerstone, the first year engineering design courses. And then, after that, I ended up shifting to the Sherman Center that you have now because I was part of the original creation of the minor that we have in engineering entrepreneurship. I designed one of those classes initially, and then I also created the master's program in product development that we started running, in the spring of 2023. 


Liam [00:11:56] And that's a pretty fascinating story, a lot going on there. And we're going to be tackling some of the things such as the minor and then the master's later on in this interview. But how do you think your background in your previous roles at Northeastern helped you with your current position at the Sherman Center? 


Mark [00:12:10] Yeah. So, you know, coming in, it's funny. It's almost like being a, a football coach who was a player having the player perspective, which I think is always important. And it's it's interesting to be faculty and have the student perspective here because, a lot of faculty that are new to Northeastern don't quite understand, I think, what the impact of something like co-op can do and like also just kind of the way Northeastern feels as a student. And I get that because, you know, even though Northeastern has changed a lot in the past 22 years, there's a lot of aspects of the university that haven't really changed. And so, you know, having the I went on three co-ops myself. I was in a five year program. All of that really kind of gives me insight into the mindset of students, even today, even as much as the programs in the world has changed. And so I think that has really helped me. Also, when I was finishing up my PhD, I was part of several startup companies. I was part of Mass Challenge twice with two different companies, Startup accelerator here, in Boston. And so that's really where I did some of my more entrepreneurial work. And then as I got more involved with curriculum and everything else, some of those, some of those companies came to a close. And so, you know, it's something that I'd like to get back more into is into the entrepreneurial side. But it was a kind of a natural fit. When I started talking with the original director, Shashi Murthy, of the center. And then that was the first time I met Theo Johnson as well. Because I had prior involvement with, IDEA, the program from the D'Amore McKim School of Business. And then I also helped form Scout, which is kind of like a sister program in the College of Arts Media and Design. And so I was kind of telling various people, you know, we should do something like Generate. And that's how Generate ended up coming up as well between Shashi, you know, Theo, Theo on myself, at the time, and then the students who actually ended up starting in, but yeah. So like all that kind of comes together to, you know, lead me to where I am now. 


Andrew [00:14:09] Could you also, maybe tell us more about your role as the Head of Academic Initiatives for the Sherman Center and why you chose to go into that role? 


Mark [00:14:18] Sure. So, you know, the the Sherman Center is a really unique part of the College of Engineering and really kind of unique across the university as well, because as a as a center, it doesn't act like a normal department, like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical, whatever. So there are pluses and minuses to that. And so one of the big pluses is that, we're outside of the department structure so we can act in a disciplinary way very quickly. And one of the things that intrigued me about the minor that we originally had was it was set up to be, taught by industry people and then myself as well. And then originally Shashi too. So that we would be able to bring some of the aspects of the academics from our side, but then we'd be able to get the insight from these industry instructors as well. And I thought that that was really interesting, and that led us down the road to get to the master's degree as well. But yeah, that's why I ended up here at the Sherman Center. 


Liam [00:15:22] So again, it seems like you kind of almost see a need for both engineering and for entrepreneurship. For example, with a minor in entrepreneurial engineering. So where do you see that need for both engineering and entrepreneurship as combining those two disciplines? Because you don't have to hear that. 


Mark [00:15:38] Yeah. So we used to. Northeastern used to have a program in, technological entrepreneurship actually. And then that program went away and it left open this, this kind of need that you're talking about, where it was, obvious from the academic side where I think at the time, I can't remember the numbers, but I believe it might even still be the case that the one of the most popular minors in the College of Engineering was business. And the reason why a lot of engineering students went and got a business minor was because they wanted to go more, you know, to know more about the business side, to think about how did you know what to do with ventures and everything else. And so we wanted to address that need more specifically for people who wanted to build things. And so that's really where really where we ended up by saying, hey, how can you look at the iterative design cycle for products and the creation of ventures and break that up into some classes so that our students are better prepared with their curriculum that they get? That's very strong from the College of Engineering. So if that's what they want to do, if they want to join a venture, if they want to start a venture, they'll be more prepared for that. 


Liam [00:16:40] Again, we interviewed in a couple episodes ago, Tuan Ho, who happened to be an engineering student at Northeastern, and then his classes also teach about engineering and entrepreneurship in a way by with consumer innovation and customer innovation and trying to know people. So for the people out there in the audience, how would they work to gain the minor in entrepreneurial engineering? So how would they be part of the program, part of the minor, and work towards that? 


Mark [00:17:03] So the minor has has four core courses. It depends on where you're coming from, either from within the College of Engineering or without. But the four core courses of the minor are customer driven technical innovation for engineers, which is GE 5010. They are a design course which is GE 5020 iterative product prototyping for engineers, which is 5030. And then product development for engineers, which is 5100 GE 5100. So it's those four core classes that we offer both in the fall, in the spring as well as the summer semesters. Sometimes we offer them as hybrid, sometimes they're offered as online as well. They have no prereqs, but as 5000 level classes, you should be an upperclassman to take them. But that's really that's how you get into the minor. And then, like I said, depending on what degree program you're coming from, the other requirements will, will kind of be dictated. Then what other kind of classes you need to take, because it's five classes to finish up the minor. And so the goal with those four classes is really the customer driven technical innovation course set you up to kind of understand, need and understand what is already out there in the market for what you want to do. And then the design course kind of takes a look at some design research and also like how do you think about how best to design solutions for the audience you're shooting for the prototyping course then goes into, well, how do you like build and test these things? What is the feasibility, usability and efficacy of a design? And like how do you improve these things through iteration? And then the last course is really more like a project course, almost like a mini capstone where you go through, you come up with an idea, you make a prototype for that idea and a plan for it. And then usually we try to have a panel of judges come in at the end and take a look at those ideas. And so it's really set up as kind of a way to see that iterative design process through those four classes. And like I said, if you're bringing your own engineering skills or from external, we get students from all over the university. This same process applies to it regardless of, you know, if you're coming from engineering or not. 


Andrew [00:19:00] So we've talked a lot about the courses that were being offered here for this minor. And you've also spoke about your history with the Sherman Center as well. Could you tell us maybe about how the academic courses here have changed or developed over time in the Sherman Center? 


Mark [00:19:14] Sure. Yeah. I mean, you know, so when we first started, with with a lot of this stuff, you know, several technologies were relatively new laser cutting, 3D printing, a lot of kind of makerspace type technologies. And we also didn't have the Sherman Center makerspace that we have now that we teach in. And so one of the biggest changes has just been kind of access to technology. And then also the kinds of students that take these classes has changed as well, where it was originally. A lot of students who are just kind of interested more generally in what they wanted to do, where over time, what we've seen is students really have an idea, and they want to see that idea expressed. And doing that through your classes can be an easy way to kind of see that idea all the way through and see the different, perspectives of the idea through that design process. And so that's what we've seen. We're hoping in the future to be able to continue to revamp these classes because like I said, besides myself and one other instructor, everybody else is from industry, right? No one else is a full time faculty member here at Northeastern. And what that allows us to do is really have those instructors bring in their own experience. And we tend to have two different types of instructors. We either have instructors that have a wealth of experience and knowledge or closer towards the end of their career, and they're in a position where they're very good at mentoring. They've seen a ton. They have like, you know, 30 years experience, like, you know, people who just it's great to just be in a room with them because, like, if you've been in a room with an old engineer or someone who's been doing this for so long, there's so many little nuggets of information that you can get that you can really use then and apply because they've been in industry for so long. And then the other half that we get are some, you know, younger people, newer alumni, those kinds of things who have been out there for a little bit and are starting to really climb the ladder in the various places they are and can bring the knowledge of, kind of what is happening right now in, in a really great way. Like we've had instructors from Microsoft and from Whoop and like things like that. And it's it's really really great. and so that's that's how we've also tried to change is by setting up our curriculum to allow our industry instructors to be able to bring their knowledge into the learning outcomes we're looking for to really create a good experience. 


Liam [00:21:25] And that is pretty fascinating because one of the best things you can do for learning is just surround yourself with people who are in the position you want to be, to try to just learn and just take their experience and the valuable information that they have to offer, because most of the time the professor has experience, but they don't necessarily have maybe work in a specific industry like entrepreneurship, which is just such a niche thing in the first place. So speaking of entrepreneurship and the programs that we have at the Sherman Center, so can you go more into the master's in product development that has been launched fairly recently, and how has that program been going so far? 


Mark [00:21:59] Yeah, so we launched the program in spring of 2023. So, so a year ago, because our spring semester start in January. And, we're actually going to have our first graduate this May, from the program, which is really exciting. And, we had our first kind of full cohort that started last fall. And we're currently in the next cycle for students to be starting in fall of, of 2024 here. And then we have also opened up, Plus One Pathways. For now, I think we have electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, we have the design BFA, and I'm hoping to open up more plus ones, you know, so the five year program where you get a master's degree on top of your undergraduate degree, and the masters in product development is really interesting because it's actually the same four core classes as the minor because they're at the 5000 level. And then we have a ton of electives that are available from almost all the departments within the College of Engineering. But then also we have some electives from business, we have some electives from Bouvé, we have some electives from the College of Arts Media and Design, and we're working on getting electives from, the Khoury College of Computer Science. And what that allows students to do is, again, kind of really customize that experience where the core courses are set up to give you that knowledge of the iterative design process, of creating a product for people that takes up about half of the degree. And so with the other half a degree, you can take electives and do projects and potentially a thesis if you choose to go down that path. And so that allows you plenty of space to be able to build off of that depth in that knowledge with breadth in other areas. And also, if you're bringing in kind of experience from your undergrad, whatever it might be, I think it really sets people up in such a way to be ready to go into, you know, the areas of product engineering and in those kinds of areas once they're done with the program. 


Andrew [00:23:47] Earlier, you mentioned working with students in your courses and kind of seeing them go through with developing an idea. What was one of your, I guess, favorite success stories that you've seen with people developing these and maybe some on the opposite side failures that you've seen that really made an impact on you? 


Mark [00:24:06] Oh, I mean, failures are always, you know, so the main class that I taught originally was the GE 5030 Iterative Product Prototyping for Engineers. And in that class, I really do encourage students to take some shots because, in order to be good at something, you have to be bad at it first. And so, you know, the best time for that is when you're in a class where it doesn't actually, you know, you don't have a lot of VC money riding on it or you're not trying to gain an audience or something like that. So, you know, there are plenty of others, I think I wouldn't necessarily say bad ideas, but ideas that just didn't work out that show up there. But one of the one of my favorite ideas, that actually came from one of the very first times I taught the class. Again, this was kind of like early on with, say, like using 3D printing and things like that. Was a student came up with a essentially, a device that clicked on to the front of a dSLR camera that would then allow you to, like rapidly change through lenses. So it almost like, pivoted and went from one lens to another very quickly. And, the device itself was relatively simple, but the precision that was necessary and like the feeling of a click into place and like the parts of the experience of using the product became very important, and the student really followed through from a like cardboard prototype that they had made to a 3D printed prototype to then ended up machining something out of aluminum that was really gorgeous. And that really, I think, shows how you should follow this process all the way through because he had knowledge that, like, you know, you see people who are shooting, photos at a wedding and they have two cameras on them because they can't change between the lenses fast enough. Or what if you were able to do that? Or what if you wanted to change between, you know, birdwatching, close and far or whatever it might be? And so he had these use cases nailed down, his audience nailed down, and then was able to execute in a way that was just really great. 


Liam [00:26:06] So again, it's fascinating to hear the stories of your personal, well, success of the students that you happen to be working with. But you mentioned earlier your own entrepreneurial endeavors, so can you go briefly into what your entrepreneurial endeavors in the past have been like? 


Mark [00:26:19] Sure. So I mentioned I was I was part of Mass Challenge twice. And one of those, we actually ended up with a residency at the Autodesk build space in in South Boston as well. And so the first one was a startup with a student I was in grad school with. We were both finishing our PhDs at the same time. And the idea was that we would have this was like in 2012, we had a, an idea for a 3D printer that would actually be able to print conductive ink into the parts, which would then allow you to turn any part into a force sensor. So when it flexed, you'd be able to measure the deflection of the part. And, really cool idea. We got some seed funding, we got into mass challenge, and we hired another engineer. And so we hired this other engineer who was a master's student here at Northeastern. We gave him essentially half of the seed money that we had available to be able to cover his salary and also, like, for materials and everything else. And like three months later, he stopped returning our emails and phone calls and just kind of left. And so it was a bit of a hard lesson to learn because that essentially killed what we were trying to do, because we ended up running out of funding. We weren't able to kind of complete what we were trying to do. And so that was really my first entrepreneurial experience, which, you know, rough in some ways, but in other ways, it was really kind of good to get that experience first when it was still kind of small potatoes, rather than have something like that happen much later on. And then, the other time I was in Mass Challenge was for a project that I was actually originally an advisor on when it was a capstone here, and then it left with another faculty member and then ended up coming back. But it was for a, a tablet application to do augmented reality for architectural visualization. So you would show up to a, like a building site and hold up an iPad and be able to see what the building would look like, be able to see where the shadows would be posted on the buildings nearby. And this was in like 2014. So this was very early in kind of augmented virtual reality ideas, you know, like that. That kind of stuff is fairly trivial to do today. It was not back then and back then, you know, Apple was and all these other companies were buying up these little companies that do this kind of thing. That, again, was an experience going through Mass Challenge and then going through the Autodesk build space where, it was really great. We learned a whole ton. And what we ended up doing was pivoting that project to make it open source, because what we had found is that we simply weren't fast enough. And so some of the other big incumbents were now coming out with technology that was similar to ours. So that made our potential exits kind of less of a possibility. And the other founders and I were basically in a position where it was like, you know, this can stay as it is, and we'll just let it go out there. And then at this point, it's the technology's out of date. But at the time, it was set up in such a way where some of the best use cases were for public art and for education, for these other things that we thought were a great addition but was not going to be financially viable to try and like go raise funds for something like that. 


Andrew [00:29:28] You mentioned you had some trouble because of a person who just up and disappeared. Yeah. Do you have any like, similar stories like that where you had trouble in entrepreneurship as well? 


Mark [00:29:38] I mean, that's probably the biggest one because it really did just essentially kind of cannonball what we were trying to do. You know, but there's at any point in any project, there's going to be some moment where you're around your team and you think to yourself, this probably isn't going to work. And it happens in every project. Like I used to advise for capstones in undergrad in mechanical engineering. And every time at some point in the semester, it didn't always happen at the same time, but at some point we'd be sitting around a table at a meeting and the students would be like, I don't think we can do this. And I think it's important as an entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial minded person or something like that, to understand that that is probably true. But you probably should try anyway. And that's what I think is like a really important thing to consider is that tomorrow is another day and you can still make progress and all this other stuff. And, so I think that that's essentially how you should think about pursuing these ideas is there is going to be a point where it it doesn't make sense. And some of the best leaps forward have been because people have actually said, now let's try it anyway. 


Liam [00:30:51] Yeah, it's pretty fascinating with the stories from your own entrepreneurial journey, with some of the successes, some the setbacks, and then with your now current students. And so we just want to know, what does entrepreneurship mean to you as both a former entrepreneur and someone who happens to teach? 


Mark [00:31:07] Yeah, I mean, teaching is is interesting. From if you think about it as like an entrepreneurial, kind of endeavor, because in a lot of ways, you're trying to set up your students, with enough knowledge that they can launch successfully the same way a company would. And so trying to tailor to those needs and kind of understand your audience are all really important pieces when it comes to teaching. But, as far as, like what entrepreneurship means to me, I think the, the main thing that I've learned from being around a lot of entrepreneurs, and in discussions with them and things like that, is that entrepreneurship really requires an aspect of vulnerability. Like you have to be willing, you have to be willing to be hurt for your ideas. And if that's hurt because it takes a lot of your time and you have to make compromises. If it's if it's hurt because the work is hard, if it's if it's hurt because the, you know, you may not make it and you have to close your company like we had to do with that first venture that I mentioned. Then you have to just be you have to be vulnerable. You have to be real about it because, you know, you hear stories about the entrepreneurs that end up being Griff's, like, you know, Elizabeth Holmes with with what she was doing. And it was one of those things where she just tried to have an air of confidence all the time, like, this is going to work, this is going to work, this is going to work. And instead, I think that there needs to be, even though I just said, like, you need to be able to push through when you think it might not work, there still needs to be a vulnerability there where it's like, we have to understand that the human level, what it is we're trying to accomplish. And I think the most successful entrepreneurs maintain that vulnerability in whatever situation ends up getting thrown at them, because a lot do like the other thing about entrepreneurship is just it's a wide range. It's it's, you know, freezing in the morning and boiling hot at night. And you just need to be able to understand that there's a resiliency that you need to have. 


Andrew [00:33:01] Yeah, it's really scary when you don't know what the future might hold, or even if you put a lot of time into developing a product, it still might not work because of some unknown factors. But we're also wondering what's next for you and what's next for, I guess, what are your plans with the academic programs are at the Sherman Center. 


Mark [00:33:20] Yeah. So I'm right now we're hoping to revamp some of the classes, and, look at doing some new offerings as well, especially at the undergraduate level for the Sherman Center. So that's where, you know, toss around some ideas right now and how those form up. I'm not I'm not quite sure at this moment, but, we're hoping to continue to build momentum for the product development, master's degree. Like I said, I'd like to make more plus one pathways and, be sure to market it really well, hopefully like things like this podcast where we're able to get the word out about the degree program itself. So, you know, those are really the next steps. As for like me in my entrepreneurship, personally, I've been throwing around some ideas. I'm on some research projects right now. A lot of my work at this moment is in kind of like the XR, like augmented virtual reality space. So there may be something that comes of that. I've tried to reach back out and be more of a mentor towards, other ventures that are out there, because I think I'm in a good position now to be able to give some advice. So that's really what I've been focused on. I also have really little kids. So my hope is, is that once they're a little bit older, that I can look at getting back into it, because the other aspect of entrepreneurship is that the best entrepreneur is really just have an itch that needs to be scratched, like they have to be entrepreneurs because they have to like if they don't, they're going to, you know, they just have an itch that needs to be scratched. And so I think that that's something that, can be cultivated, but it is something that you have to have. 


Liam [00:34:46] And the kids always have to take priority first. 


Mark [00:34:49] Yeah. 


Liam [00:34:49] Well, it looks like we're about to be wrapping up the podcast soon. It was great having you on today, but where can the audience find more about yourself, the academic programs the Sherman Center has to offer and anything else you wish to promote? 


Mark [00:35:01] Yeah. So I mean, the, the, easiest place for all of that stuff is the Sherman Center website has links to everything, but then also on the College of Engineering websites, there are pages for both the the minor as well as the master's degree. Those are the main places to, to find all that stuff. And my email is on there too. That's the best way to reach me. 


Liam [00:35:21] Well, it was great having you on today, Professor Sivak. 


Andrew [00:35:23] And thanks for coming. Thanks.