Engineering student grabs first seat at VU@EC

At just 20 years old, Vanderbilt engineering student Ben Whittle has become the first candidate accepted into the VU@EC program. Whittle and a business partner are developing a new online collaboration platform that will enable groups to brainstorm and share ideas via instant messaging or group video chats, investigate problems, and visualize solutions.

Mechanical engineering junior Ben Whittle is first candidate accepted into new VU@EC program.

“Originally we thought it was going to be an educational platform for group collaboration among students,” Whittle said. “When we stepped back and thought about it, we realized there was a lot more this system could do. It will enable detailed collaboration for various industries outside of education, like information technology and business/finance.”

Users will download an app that converts their mobile device into an input screen. They will then be able to upload text, hand-drawn images, pictures, or other materials to an online collaboration room for immediate feedback. The system will also store previous works and discussions for reference. The big idea, Whittle says, is to build a system that induces genuine collaboration and meaningful feedback regardless of physical location.

“The goal is to allow for more efficient collaboration among students and professional work groups,” he said, “and so far, the idea has been well-received.”

Whittle, who will begin his junior year in mechanical engineering this fall, has already clocked time at Nashville’s newly opened Entrepreneur Center where he will undoubtedly spend a good bit of time in the coming semester. He hopes to have a prototype ready for initial launch in November.

“I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead,” said Whittle. “There are so many different things I can do, so many different people I can talk to – mentors and other entrepreneurs. Being able to network with other entrepreneurs and business mentors and having them push you in the right direction and make sure you are prepared is such an advantage.”

Whittle began gravitating toward engineering early in his high school career but said he has always been an inventor at heart.

“I’ve always been into inventing and designing. Now I’m finally able, with the help of the EC, to follow through with an idea and see it come to fruition.”

READ MORE: Engineering shares Vanderbilt space at Entrepreneur Center 07/10/13