They’ll soon rule their own road ahead

NORTH PHILADELPHIA. Chaitanya Sakhalkar and three of his fellow senior engineering students had their minds set on joining corporate America – until a professor pegged their senior project for commercial gold.

The group, called Next Engineering, beat out nine other finalists yesterday – 75 contestants total – in Temple University’s annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl, bringing them more than $65,000 closer to becoming entrepreneurs instead of worker bees.

The group engineered a suspension system for motorcycles that would allow riders to manually adjust their suspension with the turn of a knob, allowing them to easily change on the fly and possibly revolutionizing the industry.

“Our professor from entrepreneurial engineering saw our presentation and he noticed our energy and he suggested to commercialize the project,” Sakhalkar said. “This is just the first step and we’re going to go further.”

In its 12th year, the event drew 20 percent more participants than last year and three times more than it did in 2008, according to Jaine Lucas, who organizes the event as executive director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.

“There’s a real renewed interest in entrepreneurship,” she said. “I think the main driver for that and the silver lining in this economy is that people lost a lot of jobs…and people are looking for opportunities in the marketplace to start their own businesses.”

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