Engineering students named University Innovation Fellows

Two undergraduate engineering studentshave been selected for the University Innovation (UI) Fellows program of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Dean Tate, a junior electronics engineering technology major, and Graham Leslie, a junior computer science major, were among 22 students nationwide chosen for the UI Fellows program, which challenges engineering students and their peers to create and design innovations that solve real-world problems. The program is a partnership between Stanford University and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.

The Dwight Look College of Engineering provided the financial support for Tate and Leslie to participate in this program as part of the college’s efforts to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among engineering students.

The UI Fellows program aims to give students the necessary attitudes, skills and knowledge to make them competitive in the workforce. Those selected are considered to be change-makers who are leading a movement on their campuses. Together, the students and the program hope to expose more engineering students and their peers to opportunities of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The 22 UI Fellows will complete six weeks of online training and coaching. The students receive course materials online and are then assigned to tasks designed to teach the fellows how to lead a movement on campus by engaging individuals, such as national leaders or campus stakeholders. Students then share their experiences during a one-hour online meeting. The students undergo this process to survey the entrepreneurial landscape and identify the key assets in the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at their institutions. The purpose is to cultivate the student as a leader who coalitions others in support of lasting institutional enhancements that create a vibrant culture of innovation.

Photo of Dean Tate“I am very excited to have been selected as a University Innovation Fellow because I believe A&M students have some of the best innovative designs that could be turned into startup companies to better serve our society,” Tate said. “I plan to inspire and equip those students with the tools they need to become entrepreneurs.

A member of the Corps of Cadets, Tate (pictured left) has participated in a number of leadership trainings, holds a leadership position in the IEEE-Tech student organization and has been honored for his academic achievements. Tate also works as a software research engineer in the Mobile Integrated Solutions Laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Morgan, a professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution. Tate designs control algorithms for microcontroller boards.

Leslie, in collaborationPhoto of Graham Leslie with three other students, founded the startup company, Notequill, a free note taking and social tool tailored for students. Notequill was started with the help of Startup Aggieland, a university organization that provides free services to entrepreneurial students, like Leslie, with space to launch their business startup ventures. He has varied experience in the oilfield industry and one year in the healthcare / biomedical industry.

Leslie said, “I was thrilled to learn I had been selected for the University Innovation Fellows program. Since starting my own business, Notequill, I've had nothing but outstanding support from the many different organizations, faculty, alumni and students within the Aggie network. Now I have the opportunity to give back by making it my mission to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem within Texas A&M with the aid of this new program.”

Leslie said he also hopes to identify the innovation gaps in engineering curriculum and extracurricular activities, and lead an effort to bridge these gaps. 

Thus far, Leslie and Tate have met with other UI Fellows to learn about their campus involvement, researched organizations (that are making an impact towards innovation) and entrepreneurship on their campus. They have also interviewed previous UI Fellows who made significant impacts on their colleges and documented the processes the fellows went through to accomplish these impacts.

Currently, the fellows are creating a wiki with the goal of making the UI Fellows program more widespread, online. The wiki will be a bank of information for students to access around the world; the wiki will contain information about bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to their campuses.

Leslie and Tate will participate in a UI Fellows teleconference Nov. 1 at the White House in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the UI Fellows program, visit For questions about the college of engineering’s efforts in this area, please contact