Cal Poly San Luis Obispo


What’s on Campus: Innovation Sandbox

By: Lauren Arendt

The Innovation Sandbox offers Cal Poly students a shared workspace to experience the most cutting-edge prototyping and ideation tools, explore new subjects, develop technologies and share knowledge with peers. The use of the wide assortment of tools and technologies is included in each and every Cal Poly student’s tuition, making the work space a rare, yet forgiving opportunity to experience world-class equipment.

The learning possibilities provided by the Innovation Sandbox have the potency to benefit various majors from every college at Cal Poly. From state-of-the-art robotics and mechatronics equipment, to virtual reality programs for drawing and sculpting, the opportunities to experiment are truly endless.

The Technology

The technology found at the Innovation Sandbox truly speaks for itself. 3D printing, virtual reality and milling equipment, as well as a general tool box, all contribute to the potential power garnered from the space by those who utilize it.

Three types of 3D printers are available to students at the Innovation Sandbox: Ultimaker 2 Extended+ systems, Kudo3D Titan 2 SLA DLP printers, and Ultimaker 3 Extended systems. These printers aren’t only useful to engineers, but can be utilized in virtually every field. From aerospace to fashion, 3D printing is changing the way people make prototypes.  

All students need in order to complete their first 3D printed project is to provide the Innovation Sandbox with a .stl file along with their name and major–all for free.

Virtual reality serves just as many purposes as 3D printing. Whether interested students want to make use of the relaxing painting programs, improve their reflexes with exciting action games, or simply see what is new with VR, the Innovation Sandbox has it all, again, at no cost to students.

Specific virtual reality equipment offered includes the HTC Vive, Oculus DK2, and the Oculus Rift with controllers.

Milling is yet another resource offered by the Innovation Sandbox allowing students to create prototypes. Students can set out to make anything from circuit boards to props using the Innovation Sandbox’ technology.

The specific equipment available for free to students include an OtherMill prototype circuit board cutter, X-Carve CNC router system for wood, plastic and metal, and Universal Laser system for cutting and engraving custom parts.

The Innovation Sandbox additionally offers solutions for students in need of more “old-school” equipment. The tool bench is a place where students can access a large assortment of more traditional tools, including hammers, saws, fine jewelry files and dremels. The workbench is always open and always free for students to use.

More than Just a Work Space

Student Director Kirby Ransberger believes that the Innovation Sandbox is special for more than the technology it offers: “The Innovation Sandbox is different from every other student organization and club because we serve the students of the university,” Ransberger said.

Student mentors are available to assist peers in putting projects together, working through designs and prototyping faster and more efficiently, as well as to help students experimenting with the equipment to learn from their mistakes sooner. Promoting creativity is at the center of everything that the Innovation Sandbox does.  

Haley Pavone, Founder and CEO of Pashion Footwear utilized the team and tools at the Innovation Sandbox to create the first tangible, working model of her idea for a convertible heel shoe.

“We used the Innovation Sandbox to develop the first ever 3D printed prototype of our innovative high heel design, and do so within a startup budget,” said Pavone. “We were able to work with the knowledgeable Sandbox staff to create a great initial 3D model, iterate it as necessary, and print it to perfection – all for free.”

The Innovation Sandbox allows students to fully embrace the Learn by Doing motto. The resource offers students a chance to not only try new things, but fail with no strings attached. Students interested in trying out the equipment are encouraged to visit the Innovation Sandbox in the Bonderson Project Center (Building 197), Room 205, anytime from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To learn more about the opportunities on campus to foster innovation, visit, or follow the CIE on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Watch the Video:

What’s on Campus: The Hatchery

By: Lauren Arendt

Any student interested in learning about what it takes to start a business, or even form an idea for a business, is well suited to apply for the Hatchery, the on-campus hub for entrepreneurial-minded students. The Hatchery’s goal is to foster student entrepreneurship initiatives, whether that be forming a peer network, building relationships with CIE faculty, or learning skills essential to success.

Participating in the Hatchery is not limited to the students of the Orfalea College of Business. Rather, students from all walks of life at Cal Poly come together to collaborate and build upon each other’s ideas in the space.

“We have probably every college at Cal Poly represented in the Hatchery,” said Alexa Rozell, Hatchery Director. “Students from all majors are welcome at the Hatchery.”

Once students are admitted into the Hatchery, they receive 24/7 access to the shared workspace located in the Crochett Education Building. In this space, students have the opportunity to build a peer network, collaborate with mentors and attend weekly workshops.

“The Hatchery is a really great place to network with other students, as well as with different CIE faculty,” said Rozell. “Sometimes, we’ll bring in entrepreneurs and residents who talk about their experiences and give advice.”

Weekly startup assignments help entrepreneurial minded students to learn valuable skills in communication, goal-setting and leadership. All of these skills help students cultivate their ideas, as well as prepare them for launching their own companie.

Many of Cal Poly’s most distinguished entrepreneurs got their start at the Hatchery, including Atsa Foods, a current CIE incubating company. Students from various colleges and majors came together to create a cohesive snack food company with a strong social mission. Haley Pavone, Founder and CEO of Pashion Footwear, another current CIE incubating company, also utilized the Hatchery to help launch her business.

Applying to the Hatchery is as simple as filling out a form online and meeting with a faculty advisor to discuss ideas and goals. The advisors will help interested students determine what next steps to take, as well as lend a hand at every stage of the implementation of those steps.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and can be accessed at this LINK. Visit the Hatchery in building 2, room 206 to see future entrepreneurs in action, or visit this LINK to learn about other ways to get involved with the CIE.

What’s on Campus: Cal Poly Entrepreneurs

By: Lauren Arendt

The Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE), one of the most diverse clubs on the Cal Poly campus, offers students a network of like-minded peers and countless learning experiences. The community of creative thinkers works together to manifest their entrepreneurial mindset, and even build world-changing ideas.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Majors from various colleges are not only allowed, but encouraged to get involved with the CPE. The benefits provided by the club serve far more than only business and engineering students: from political science and journalism, to architecture and forestry, anyone interested in learning the skills associated with an entrepreneurial frame of mind will learn and grow.

“Mechanical engineering students usually don’t get to take businesses classes,” explained mechanical engineering student and third year at Cal Poly, Brannon Smudz. “Hearing about the full project development that happens with entrepreneurship really motivated me to get that experience in the entrepreneurship minor and get plugged in with things like the Hatchery, Elevator Pitch Competition and Startup Weekend.”

All members benefit from the various majors, skillsets and personalities represented in the club. More diversity leads to a richer network and more possibilities for inspiration and collaboration.  

“[The CPE] surrounds me with a group of people that want to take their ideas to the next step and I find a lot of passion and motivation in that,” said Smudz.


The only real qualification to join the CPE is an open mind to entrepreneurship. Coming in with a business idea is not only unnecessary, but rather uncommon. An estimated 60 percent of students in the club don’t have preconceived ideas, but instead an eagerness to surround themselves with the inspiration to build one.

Additionally, there are no club fees, making the club truly open to anyone. The only fees that come up are for optional, highly discounted trips to different cities and states that provide priceless opportunities to network.

Why CPE?

On Tuesday nights, when the CPE meetings are conducted, students from every walk of life at Cal Poly gather to listen to successful entrepreneurs share their stories, hold workshops, learn new skills, network and collaborate.

Atsa Foods, CIE Incubating Company, Offers Much More than a Snack

By: Lauren Arendt

Atsa Foods, one of the SLO HotHouse Incubator companies, not only offers nutritious, flavorful snack products, but utilizes a unique business model aimed at spurring alternative industry development in economically depressed regions of the United States. Key ingredients unique to the United States are sourced from Native American communities and American open spaces.

Rafael Pintor, Atsa Foods president, and Sam Baber, Atsa Foods marketer and designer, came up with the idea for Atsa foods after a long day of surfing. They realized that a lot of snacks available simply did not reach a satisfying balance between healthy, flavorful and sustaining.

“We needed something that filled us up, but also something that we could eat everyday,” Baber said. “A lot of alternatives are good for you but can get hard to eat day in and day out.”

The focus on nutrition that tastes good led the team to look into the “superfoods” trend where consumers oftentimes look for novel sources of protein and nutrition, such as the acai berry and yerba mate plant of South America, and integrate them as staple foods in their diet. What they found is that there are a number of superfoods native to the United States with unique flavors and nutritional benefits.

“We are trying to look inward and find superfoods found [in the United States] in order to help people that have known about these foods for millennia and used them to survive and thrive in this nation,” explained Peter Haverkamp, Atsa Foods product developer.

The United States-native superfood of choice? The New Mexican pinon nut, a European pine nut-like ingredient that contains all 20 amino acids necessary for human growth, healthy proteins and fats, and a savory, buttery flavor. Only a small chocolate company has incorporated the ingredient in the past, making it highly underutilized.

These nuts are harvested once a year in the wild in Native American reservations or American open spaces. This means that no environmental modification is required, making them a sustainable choice. Atsa Foods has secured a supply of New Mexican pinon nuts for several years in the future, thanks to the relationships they have built with suppliers in proximity to Native American reservations.

Harvesting the products on and around Native American reservations is no mistake. The social mission of Atsa Foods is to develop economic opportunities based on the harvesting of sustainable ingredients.

“We want to create an economic engine in areas of the United States that historically have not had that,” said Pintor. “Our social mission is to create intimate partnerships with the people on these reservation communities.”

Once the superfoods are harvested, Atsa Foods combines them with a number of other all-natural, nutritious ingredients to create their snack line. Once they are purchased by consumers, a percentage of the profits will flow back into the Native American communities in order to promote economic development.

The feedback from customers and potential investors has been wildly positive. Their first opportunity to present what they had created to the community was at Demo Day. The team tirelessly worked to produce enough samples of the product that people would love, as well as a presentation that would translate their social mission and inspire support.

“Everyone told us they loved it,” said Haverkamp. “People immediately called us asking for investment meetings and were really excited about what we’re doing.”

Since then, they have had many meetings about investment, come in contact with the president of Yerba Mate and even sponsored a charity golf tournament.

“The CIE has been tremendous to our success,” said Pintor. “It helped us take an idea to a tangible product that we can take to the market.

Atsa Foods started their journey with the CIE in the Hatchery where they were able to collaborate with other entrepreneurs and solidify their ideas. They continued to develop in the accelerator, and even participated in the Innovation Quest (iQ) where they won fourth place and a $1,600 cash prize. The next step would be applying for the CIE’s incubator program.

“Once we got to the Incubator, we grew so fast,” Pintor said.

Neal Gorris, the operations and logistics lead for Atsa Foods, owes much of the growth stimulated by the incubator program to the connections they have made with other entrepreneurs in the incubator program, mentors, and other advisors in legal issues, accounting, marketing and general consulting.

“There are distinguished professionals from Los Angeles and the Bay Area coming in to sit down with us to talk about different issues and questions we might have,” said Pintor.

Despite its previous successes, Atsa Foods has a long way to go before their aspirations have been met. For one, they want to utilize more United States-native superfoods. An example is juniper ash, which contains as much calcium as a glass of milk in just a single gram. The Apache Navajo tribe used the burned trees as a supplement to milk and ended up with stronger bones than the average European woman.

Furthermore, Atsa Foods hopes to spread beyond the South West so that they can help communities in different regions and countries. Becoming a B Corporation will help them keep their goal of helping historically economically deprived communities as the center of what they do.

“Our plan for the future is to become a B Corp,” said Gorris. “This is so that our main priority can be toward the people that we’re trying to help rather than toward our shareholders’ profits.”

The story of Atsa Foods is what the Learn by Doing mantra is all about. Atsa Foods was founded by a team of Cal Poly students from various majors and colleges that utilized the skills they acquired in class to create something bigger than each of them individually. They took advantage of resources on campus, such as the CIE, that not only allowed, but supported and encouraged the team to turn their ideas into realities during their time as students.

Learn more about the various ways of getting involved with the CIE here, and check out how to apply for the incubator program here. Follow the CIE on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to stay in-touch with the opportunities, programs and events offered.


How to Get Involved with the CIE

By: Lauren Arendt


The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) serves both Cal Poly students and the surrounding community. From helping entrepreneurs to build leadership skills to generating startup ideas to providing established companies with the tools they need for success, the CIE offers many opportunities to get involved for students, alumni, faculty and community members alike.

Are You a Student?

Due to the various programs, competitions and events offered, there is no linear route into the organization. Rather, it is up to students to pave their own path into the CIE based on their goals and interests.

The Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC)

Every fall, the CIE invites Cal Poly and Cuesta students across all majors to pitch their big idea in front of a panel of entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000. The catch? Participants are only allowed 90 seconds to present their pitches.

The competition runs in two stages. In the first stage, students must submit a video application. Video applications are 90 seconds long, as if going up 20 floors in an elevator. They should include details about the idea, product, service or business they have in mind that would spark the interest of potential investors, customers and partners. In stage two, the selected finalists pitch at the CIE’s first forum of the academic year. The design of the competition not only allows participants to formulate their ideas in a supportive environment, but also allows them to network with fellow entrepreneurs and practice their presentation skills.

Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE)

The CPE is a club that invites students from any major to manifest their entrepreneurial skills and collaborate among like-minded peers. During weekly meetings, the CPE invites successful entrepreneurs to share their stories, holds workshops for learning new skills and gives members a hub for networking.

The CPE does not require members to come in with business ideas. The club rather aims to provide a forum for students to network and share ideas in an environment that fosters innovation.

The Hatchery

The Hatchery fosters entrepreneurship initiatives and the development of Cal Poly student-led startups on the Cal Poly campus. The Hatchery achieves its goal of providing students with the tools they need to learn about converting an idea into a company through mentorship, weekly workshops, startup assignments and an array of other activities and events.

Building a business through the Hatchery program is guided by the philosophy that multidisciplinary teams are essential to success. Students interested in building a business and seeking out a hands-on, well-rounded learning experience from any major are welcome to apply.

The SLO HotHouse Accelerator Program

The CIE identifies growable and scalable companies created by Cal Poly students or recent alumni from any major to participate in the accelerator program. A diverse alumni and business leadership pool of mentors and speakers from the startup world, along with weekly workshops, help teach new entrepreneurs the skills they need to grow their companies. In addition, each company accepted in the accelerator program has access to $10,000 in seed funding to start building their business.

Innovation Quest (iQ)

iQ encourages innovators and entrepreneurs to build interdisciplinary teams and take their ideas to prototypes and eventually companies. The competition provides students a platform to showcase what they have built, coded, designed or prototyped throughout their efforts at Cal Poly.  

The winners of the competition receive up to $15,000 of prize money to help them launch their business. Since the competition’s beginning in 2003, more than $300,000 have been awarded in support of Cal Poly innovators and entrepreneurs.  

Innovation Sandbox

The Innovation Sandbox offers students a shared workspace to experience and learn about the latest prototyping and ideation tools. The state-of-the-art equipment, including a 3D printer, allows students to explore new subjects, develop new technologies and share knowledge.

Students from various majors and disciplines formulate and develop their ideas in a collaborative work space, embodying the Learn by Doing philosophy that defines Cal Poly.

Entrepreneurship Forum Series

Once per quarter, the CIE presents a forum targeted to innovators, entrepreneurs, startups and growing, small businesses. The CIE brings together a panel of entrepreneurs with key insights into the challenges and models of success within the entrepreneurial world. The forum series offers widely diversified topics that welcome participants to personally and professionally dig deep in a safe environment.

All forums are free and open to both the students and the public in an effort to provide a vital link between the university and community that unifies entrepreneurs towards the common good of creating a better world.

Are You an Alumni or Community Member?

The SLO HotHouse Incubator

Our innovative community startups receive all of the tools needed for early-stage development into financially stable, high-growth enterprises in the incubator program. Mentorship, monthly peer-to-peer roundtable discussions, an advisory board for each startup, networking opportunities and exclusive access to various entrepreneurial events in the community are among the programs that facilitate smarter and faster growth.

Aside from these programs, all participating businesses may utilize the SLO Hothouse resources, including the Small Business Development Center, office space, conference rooms and an invaluable peer network and mentorship.

Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

By offering no-charge expert consulting and low-cost trainings, this community resource helps local entrepreneurs launch companies, boost the economy, and cross-pollinate with other companies at the SLO HotHouse.

In 2016, the CIE SBDC provided services to 128 companies, through 3,121 hours of no-cost consulting, helping startups and small businesses raise $5.3M in capital and create more than 100 local jobs.


The CIE mentorship program allows students and community members to enrich their educational experience at Cal Poly. Mentors are matched with students at various stages in their entrepreneurial journey in order to help them navigate the many obstacles that come with starting a business. The CIE recognizes the impact that the tangible advice, insight and support from mentors can have on entrepreneurs.

More than 200 Cal Poly alumni and community members have volunteered their time as mentors, coaches and advisors. These people are essential components of the center that extend across nearly every program and event.  


The SLO HotHouse offers coworking space designed to enhance productivity, collaboration and  success for its members. Coworking members enjoy perks such WiFi, educational and social events, conference rooms, meeting spaces, access to SBDC consultants, a lounge and kitchen, and all the free coffee you can drink–all with no leases and 24/7 access.  

Founders Circle

Founders Circle members play a prominent role in helping students through mentoring classroom presentations, judging competitions and hosting internships. Members join a community of dedicated philanthropists who recognize the major benefit that comes from the CIE. They serve as a vital link between students and the entrepreneurial business community. Founders Circle members may even participate virtually due to the geographic dispersion of members.


Anyone who believes in the CIE can make an impact on the program. Like many other nonprofits, the CIE is made possible by the philanthropy of generous donors. Any gift, big or small, helps the CIE to build and support tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

The CIE offers a large variety of programs and events that uplift students, community members, and the entrepreneurial world as a whole. At first glance, it may seem daunting to get involved with an organization that does so much. After taking the time to get to know the organization, however, it becomes apparent that so much variety is not scary, but rather makes it possible for students, faculty and community members to find a program that fits their specific entrepreneurial needs.

To learn more about CIE, go to or check out the video below. Also, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up-to-date with upcoming programs, events and opportunities for involvement.

The SLO HotHouse: A Great Venue for Your Next Event

Looking for an awesome event space in SLO without the high price point? Look no farther than the SLO HotHouse! With our inspiring atmosphere, great location, natural light and all around good vibes, the SLO HotHouse is a great venue choice for your next event.

SLO HotHouse’s event space holds up to 100 people. Your company can hold employee training, conferences, award ceremonies, luncheons and more! With our prime location in the heart of downtown SLO and our affordable rates, you can save money in venue costs and use it elsewhere to make your event a success.

“With the SLO HotHouse being located in the center of downtown, we serve as a convenient, easily accessible meeting space for our community,” said Tod Nelson, CIE Executive Director.

Our rates are $100 an hour plus a cleaning fee.  We also offer great discounts to nonprofit organizations.

For more information or to book a tour of our event space, visit

Did you know that Cal Poly OCOB now offers an entrepreneurship minor?!

This minor is open to all students! No matter your college, major or career goals, an entrepreneurship minor could be beneficial in growing your professional skill set. This minor encourages students to embrace the entrepreneur inside of each of us, as students learn to draw on dedication, teamwork, and grit to solve real-world problems and create sustainable businesses.

Watch the video to see for yourself why a minor in entrepreneurship could be the right choice for you! 

Become A CIE Faculty Fellow Today!

CIE Faculty Fellows are essential to the cultivation of entrepreneurship and innovation on Cal Poly’s campus. Their efforts bring entrepreneurial thinking into action through the courses they teach and their co-curricular experiences.

To be a CIE Faculty Fellow means being a part of an interdisciplinary community that shares an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship, and is committed to inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Watch our video below to hear first-hand why this experience is so rewarding, and may be the right fit for you.

For additional information about the CIE Faculty Fellows Program and how to apply, please click here.

Coworking: A Startup’s Competitive Advantage

Michael Allen, CEO and co-founder of Imajize, made a company that provides customers with beautiful, sharp 360 degree images of their product, ready in no time. Their 360º viewer lets customers spin products virtually, online. They sell both 360 degree images and 360 degree image software.

With 360 degree photography being a relatively new industry, coworking at the SLO HotHouse has given Allen the resources he needs to be successful in the field and expand his business fast. Watch our video below to see how coworking at the SLO HotHouse is a great way for your startup to find its competitive advantage.

Social Media: An Essential Tool for Your Startup

When you’re getting your startup off the ground, you spend countless hours working on your business model canvas and value proposition, getting out of the building and looking for customers. It is too often that creating a social media presence for your company takes a backseat to the other tasks on your startup to-do list.  

Don’t let this be the case for your startup! The time to start building your following is NOW! Publicize your company, and let people see first-hand the hard work you are putting in to make your dreams a reality. Social media is a powerful tool! Use it early and use it often. Use it to showcase your work, connect with customers and create opportunity.

Here are a few tips for your startups social media strategy:

1. Don’t try to be on every platform.

One big mistake companies make on social media is spreading themselves too thin. If you can’t keep up with five social media platforms, then don’t spread your reach that far. It’s better to be on one platform and have a really strong presence, than be on multiple and have a mediocre presence.

With that said, pick your platforms with purpose. What platform is your customer segment on? Is your company interesting visually? If not, steer clear from Instagram. What platforms allow you to connect best? Many investors and business professionals are on Twitter, so this could be a great opportunity to get noticed in the startup world.

2. Be real.

Part of what is so unique to a startup is how it creates a lifestyle for the people who are a part of it. Share your life inside and outside the office. Let your followers get to know you. By being authentic, you will connect with people and draw them in.

3. Everything you share is a part of your brand.

Yes, you should share things in and out of the office, but with that said, make sure everything you share is on brand. Are you a wedding planning company? Share a shot of fresh blooms from the florist you got that day or an artsy cup of coffee you enjoyed at a local coffee shop. A great way to determine whether or not something fits your brand is to determine your company’s top 5 brand buzzwords. An example of a buzzword set could be: adventurous, innovative, fun, creative and happy. If your post doesn’t represent your brand buzzwords, then don’t post it.

4. Create content that adds value.

Social media is about interacting. You won’t gain a great social media presence simply by sharing what your company does. You’ll gain a great following by interacting with your followers and creating content that adds value to their lives. For example, if you’re a bike shop write a blog about how they can fix a flat  with a product you sell when they’re out on the trails. Or, offer Instagram followers a coupon code for their next online purchase. By intertwining your product with special tips and deals, you make sure that the interaction isn’t one-sided. Your followers should experience benefits through following you. This gives them a reason to stay interested.

5. Be consistent. 

A great way to make sure that you post good, frequent content is to make a social media calendar. Plan out your posts and schedule them. By keeping track of your posts in an organized fashion, it’s easier to track analytics and adjust your strategy based on what worked well and what didn’t. Don’t be afraid to change and evolve as you experiment with social media and grow your following.

Experiment with social media. Be bold, have fun and most importantly, engage with people! Also, let’s stay connected; be sure to follow the CIE on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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