Three Villanovans Represent the College of Engineering at Forbes Summit

by Daniel Fetsko 19’ CE

 

Zach Ellenhorn ’18 ChE
Zach Ellenhorn ’18 ChE

Each year, around 5,000 of the world’s brightest young leaders and innovators in every field converge on the prestigious Forbes Under 30 Summit for pitch contests, speakers and networking. This year’s event took place in Boston, Mass. from October 16–19, and included four separate content stages: Tech, Create, Capital and Impact. Participants come from all over the world, bringing an enormous variety of ideas, businesses, products and perceptions. Anyone under the age of 30 can apply to participate, and this year 12 Villanovans—including three students from the College of Engineering—were accepted to attend.

Impressive entrepreneurial and leadership experiences helped Zach Ellenhorn ’18 ChE land a spot at the summit. In addition to pursuing an entrepreneurship minor, Zach is a National Society of Black Engineers member and leader. Last summer he interned as a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School.

Zach also founded his own service program, All Hands-On Science, which takes weekly trips to Philadelphia to help inner-city elementary schools teach math and science. He explains, “My main inspiration for All Hands-On Science was the statistic that only 18 percent of African American 4th graders are proficient in mathematics. This really bothered me, and I felt that, as a Villanovan, something had to be done.”

Ian Stankosh ’17 ME
Ian Stankosh ’17 ME

Another undergraduate engineering student, Ian Stankosh ’17 ME, also participated in the 2016 summit. A mechanical engineering major with a minor in mechatronics, Ian is a member of the College’s RobotX team. “I used my experiences to connect with both start-ups and established companies to learn more about the tech industry,” he says. He adds: “I want to do something with my technical background and skills that helps inspire positive change.” Ian’s motivation also fits his choice of a senior capstone project: an explosive ordinance disposal robot for use in the Cambodian countryside.

Vanessa Kungne, Chemical Engineering graduate student
Vanessa Kungne, Chemical Engineering graduate student

The College’s third summit participant was Vanessa Kungne, a graduate student from Cameroon who is pursuing a master’s degree in chemical engineering. The summit adds to Vanessa’s already extensive list of accomplishments that includes being a finalist for Africa’s biggest entrepreneurial award, the Anzisha Prize; being featured in a CNN story on the development of young entrepreneurs in Africa; and being named to Forbes Africa’s “30 under 30” list.

Even more impressive is the hard work and dedication that has lifted Vanessa this far. After beginning her undergraduate studies at the age of 15, and motivated by a history of diabetes in her family, Vanessa encountered the medicinal properties of the moringa oleifera tree (known in English as the drumstick tree). By the time she was 17, she was ready to launch her own business—Afya Tea—“afya” meaning health in Swahili. The natural remedies in the moringa leaves become infused in the tea, making it extremely healthy and helping it regulate blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

Currently found in only a few stores in Cameroon, Vanessa hopes her company takes off later this year with a crowdfunding campaign aimed at automating the production system rather than making everything by hand. Vanessa hopes her venture can spread throughout all of Cameroon and eventually internationally in order to help as many people as possible. She says, “Afya Tea believes in sustainable prosperity for all: People, planet and profit.”

The Forbes Summit offered Vanessa a great opportunity to be recognized on an international stage and help grow her company. Not only did attendees get to view presentations from many well-known, successful entrepreneurs, but each participant also was able to give their own product pitch and had a chance to participate in various competitions.