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UW-Platteville student Caleb Dykema has accomplished more than most undergraduates during his time as a mechanical engineering student, including pursuing commercialization of an invention. 

Dykema began working with WiSys after submitting an idea for a WiSys innovation contest known as Prototype Hackathon at UW-Platteville. Dykema later received a grant from the UW System to perfect this idea for a more efficient whiteboard eraser called 1Swipe. More recently, Dykema was named the 2019 Innovator of the Year by WiSys.

Do you remember when you first realized you wanted to study mechanical engineering at UW-Platteville?

I’ve always been fascinated by how things are put together, work and operate. And ever since I played with Legos and tinkered with different things when I was a kid, I've wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I knew UW-Platteville was a great engineering school and after hearing about the opportunities from alumni students, I wanted to be a part of the culture.

How has your own invention, 1Swipe, impacted your career focus?

1Swipe has opened my mind to the possibilities and rewards that may come with creating my own company in the future. This project has also taught me valuable business, management, and leadership skills that I would not have obtained otherwise. The idea of 1Swipe came to me while watching a classroom lose focus as a professor slowly erased the board. I think that if an experience comes in a similar fashion where I see a need for a change, I will take action to create a solution.

How did you manage working on all fronts, from development to marketing, on 1Swipe while in school? Do you have any top time management tips?

The biggest challenge for me was finding the time during the school week to work on 1Swipe, but I managed to do so by just dedicating a certain amount of time to work on it each day and holding myself to it. I had a lot of help from a friend as far as the marketing went, as well as WiSys and my mentor, Gokul Gopalakrishnan, for assistance in the design. 

Some of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to not be afraid to ask for help from mentors, professors or colleagues. Another thing is to dedicate time just for yourself when working on a large project in order to re-energize yourself and keep your creative spark. Finally, going to a great engineering school, I hear so many bright ideas for products or businesses from other students and I can’t stress enough the amount of resources the campus provides for turning your idea into a reality…use them!

What was your greatest takeaway about the prototype/R&D process that you learned through competing in the Prototype Hackathon and Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament?

The biggest takeaway I would say is just putting yourself out there and not being afraid of the unknown. There has been a lot of things business and engineering related that I didn’t have any experience with before 1Swipe and it has shown me to not be afraid to explore new things.

INNOVATIVE PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW is an ongoing series highlighting the best and brightest students, faculty and staff from the UW System who do innovative research, have innovative business ideas or inspire others to be innovative.