Paul Hyman says he never thought he’d start his own company, but he did.
Now the Clarkson sophomore — majoring in engineering and management — has two provisional patents and plans to become a high-tech manufacturer.
“It was Clarkson’s business plan competition,” he says. “Just being part of it helped me piece together all the concepts we talk about in class. The ideas just took shape.”
Those ideas include a fire-prevention system within clothes dryers — the point where thousands of house fires start each year.
“My design includes a sensor in the lint trap, because it’s the lint that usually ignites and starts the fire. When it starts smoldering, carbon-monoxide is detected and my product immediately does two things: emits carbon-dioxide to suppress the flames and sends a signal to an attached home alarm system.”
His other provisional patent was issued for an infra-red camera — mounted within firefighters’ masks — that can help them see people and obstacles in smoke-filled spaces where there is no visibility.
“When you’re responding to a fire and you walk into burning buildings, the smoke is usually so thick you can’t see your hand in front of your face,” Hyman says.
How does he know this?“I always wanted to be a firefighter,” he says. “When I was 17, I signed up and got training with my local squad in Port Washington.” With that fire department in mind, he’s working toward his degree at Clarkson and building a company focused on helping all firefighters.
“I named it Prometheus,” he says, “after the titan in Greek mythology who gave fire to man. But the word also means ‘forward thinker.’”
“That’s a good description of Paul,” says Matt Draper, director of Clarkson’s Shipley Center for Innovation. Hyman is working with Draper and others in the Center to turn Prometheus into a competitive manufacturing company.
“Paul had the ideas. We just helped him organize those ideas,” Draper says. “Once he understood that he really could develop Prometheus into a viable company, it seemed like he tapped the reservoir of his own potential. He became an entrepreneur. We see this happen with lots of students. They have the skills and the initiative and when they put them together, they essentially remake themselves.”
Hyman is surprised at his own transformation into an entrepreneur.
“I always liked problem solving,” he says, “and my friends and I used to build all these crazy contraptions, but I didn’t think of myself as an inventor or innovator until I came to Clarkson. The courses I’m taking go hand-in-hand with developing my business. I learn something in the morning and I’m applying it to my company that afternoon.”
As a manufacturer, Hyman says it’s vital that his products incorporate the latest, most-advanced technology and that they’re affordable.
“Right now,” he says, “even a basic thermal imaging camera is around $15,000. That makes it hard for small fire departments to afford what is essentially life-saving equipment.”
When asked why he’s doing this — what motivates him — he smiles and says, “Well, it might sound cheese-y, but I really do want to make the world a better place and I’m discovering that I can. I mean, everyone has the potential, if they have the passion, too. And the help to figure out how. I found all that here at Clarkson.”
Paul Hyman '16
Engineering & Management