By Tatyana Hopkins
Without a dedicated office space, the leaders of the interdisciplinary student organization George Hacks have met and organized the group’s annual medical hackathons wherever they could since its inception nearly two years ago.
But recently the group has found a home on the seventh floor of the Shops at 2000 Penn building in the George Washington University Innovation+Entrepreneurship (I+E) Lab, a new on-campus student co-working space.
“Previously, we would have meetings with potential sponsors and partners in coffee shops around campus or in the lobby of various buildings like Marvin Center, the Science and Engineering Hall and Duques Hall,” said Caitlyn Pratt, a junior biomedical engineering student and George Hacks director. “We’d have to go early to scope out a spot to make sure space was available.”
Run by the GW Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (OIE) in partnership with MakeOffices, the I+E Lab aims to provide all the physical and intellectual resources students need to scale their ideas and businesses as well as dedicated space for student groups.
GW students may drop into the lab from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to enjoy free WIFI, coffee (hot and cold brew), tea and a space to work on their ideas. In addition to open co-working space and team collaboration space, the lab also will house one-on-one advising office hours with industry experts, a resource center and events and workshops for student entrepreneurs.
"The I+E Lab at MakeOffices is an incredible resource for all GW innovators, changemakers and aspiring entrepreneurs to get the support they need to launch the next big idea,” said Jim Chung, GW’s associate vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship. “It's the new hub on campus for student and faculty innovation and connectivity— truly an Only at GW experience."
George Hacks is one of the first student groups to participate in OIE’s Innovator Access Program, which gives vetted students and student groups free dedicated desks and 24/7 access to the I+E Lab.
Ms. Pratt said just a few weeks in the new space has had a “dramatic impact” on the group.
“This space helped remove a lot of obstacles that were potentially inhibiting our growth and provides a platform for our continued growth and success,” she said.
She said in addition to adding to George Hacks’ professional profile, the new space has served a functional role in the group’s organization and has given them a space to store and use the group’s 3-D printer and other mini prototyping materials they previously housed in a basement closet in Science and Engineering Hall.
Asia Jones, a senior majoring in public health and an OIE Entrepreneurial Fellow, will work in the I+E Lab to assist students and help connect them to the resources they need to build their startup or join other working teams.
She said the lab will bring OIE’s services “to life” and create a “home away from home” for students looking to start a business, start-up or social venture no matter where they are in the process.
“This space provides a way for students to connect with the entrepreneurship and innovation community, whether that’s peers, staff or us fellows,” Ms. Jones said. “Entrepreneurship can be intimidating. But, [the I+E Lab and OIE] are like a family. Everyone is warm, welcoming and there when you need them.”