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Coded Friendship

Students use teamwork and the Maverick Innovation Center to make their entrepreneurial concept a reality

One friendship sparked a venture that may change future transportation options at Colorado Mesa University. Combining hard work, teamwork and passion, Shin Kajiwara, Allen Harper and Daniel Garces took their scooter project, Topi Scooter, from an idea to reality.

Kajiwara, an international student, was nervous about the language barrier and about making friends when he first arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado, from Tokyo, Japan. Those nerves faded when his new-found passion for computer science and hobby of kickboxing were shared by Harper, which led to an easy and dynamic friendship.

“He’s a friend that I work out with, hang out with on the weekends and we also have fun coding,” said Kajiwara, a computer science major.

In November 2019, Kajiwara, his friends and classmates started discussing what they could do as a project or business and settled on better transportation on campus through the use of electric scooters. After explaining their idea to Associate Professor of Computer Science Karl Castleton, they realized they needed to develop a mobile app, scooters and servers, but had no idea where to start — enter the Maverick Innovation Center.

“The Maverick Innovation Center was the central meeting point for the team and their mentors, who offered guidance and support throughout this project,” said Maverick Innovation Center Director Tom Benton. “The center also offered workspace and equipment to support their concept development.”

Kajiwara and the team spent countless hours refining their concept under the guidance of Castleton, and even engaged mechanical engineering students to design self-charging stations that could be set up on campus in central locations.

“All of us, faculty, university administration and a host of community partners, get really excited to see concepts go from ideas to beta testing and proof of concept to a viable product,” Benton said. “I’m very happy to continue to support Shin and the other students in their venture.”

Funding for the project was stalled after the university took a financial hit from the pandemic but Kajiwara isn’t letting that stop him. He plans to continue working on this project to move it from prototype to production, and hopes to one day see his scooters running on campus.

“My scooter project taught me that if I have a passion with hard work and teamwork, we can do it,” Kajiwara said. “CMU allows you to develop your idea and make it happen.”


Written by Katlin Birdsall