When you’re developing a business plan – or a new product – having the guidance of a professional from that field can make all the difference. And that’s exactly the advantage that 24 College of Charleston undergraduates are enjoying as participants in the ICAT program (International Cross-curricular Accelerator for Technology). In fact, they’re enjoying it in abundance.


Technology mentors from Boeing South Carolina.

Students in this innovative program are split into eight teams of three. As part of the ICAT curriculum, each team meets for one hour and 15 minutes every other week with mentors who comprise a who’s who list from Charleston’s tech and business sectors. Each team has both a tech mentor and a business mentor, as well as other prominent professionals who serve as roving mentors. Collectively, the mentors advise the students on varying aspects of the projects/products that the teams are developing.

So, is this strategy beneficial for the students? “Absolutely,” says Ben Hintz, a senior English major from Bristol, Conn. Hintz says he’s wholly impressed by the caliber of mentors that he and his fellow team members have been assigned to work with.

“It’s remarkable. I’d say the mentoring component is definitely one of the strongest elements of this program. For instance, our team’s business mentor – Prag Shah of Zubie – is phenomenal. When you have someone with his experience giving you advice on your project, you inevitably accelerate the growth of your startup.”

According to ICAT co-director Chris Starr, many of the mentors helping to support the ICAT students are employed at Boeing South Carolina, and they include senior software developers, computer graphics specialists, systems infrastructure experts and senior web developers. In addition, the business mentors include multi-firm entrepreneurs, management specialists and senior executives.

“We think this opportunity for the mentors is very synergistic,” explains Starr. “They’re dolling expertise and advice, but they’re also playing a big role in workforce development. Some of our ICAT students may indeed go on to contribute as employees of Boeing or other companies represented among the mentors.”

The ICAT program, which is actually two college courses combined, runs throughout the current semester. It will culminate in late April when each student team will make a final presentation – a business pitch – and vie for a grand prize of $10,000 as early seed funding.

For additional information about the ICAT program, read more on The College Today.