Penn State Berks alumni 'flying high' with customizable drones

READING, Pa. — It all began when Kyle Moyer, Anthony Rothenberger and Jason King, electro-mechanical engineering technology majors who graduated in December 2014, were enrolled in the same course, "Electromechanical Design Project Preparation and Electromechanical Design Project." They were tasked with designing and building a project, so they worked as a team to build a drone.

Then Rothenberger, who was enrolled in the entrepreneurship minor, enrolled in the entrepreneurial leadership course. He was asked to write a business plan for a startup company, so he focused on a fictional company that built the drones that he and his teammates designed in the engineering course. Suddenly, the fictional company was becoming a reality.

Although all three alumni are employed — Moyer as a project engineer at Reading Bakery Systems; Rothenberger as a manufacturing engineer at Micro-Coax; and King as a controls technician for First Quality — they work on their drone business, Onuku Industries, whenever they have free time in Moyer’s garage.

Moyer explained that each member of the team has an individual role: he is the theorist or idea person, Rothenberger’s main role is implementing the intended functionality of the drone by bringing the ideas to life, and King builds the frames and handles the manufacturing and modeling of possible parts.

Currently, they have built three drones: an efficiency-based drone that uses a battery, a photography drone, and a lifting drone. When asked what makes their drones different from their competitors, Moyer responded, “Adaptability. They will never be obsolete because of open source software.”

The team was honored with two different awards for their innovative plan for a startup company: The New Student Enterprise Award from Penn State Berks and the 2015 Business Idea Challenge from the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce.

The New Student Enterprise Award contest is the Penn State Berks version of "Shark Tank," where students present their ideas for a business startup, and the campus' Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development Center awards the winning team. The purpose is to provide seed money to support an enterprising and innovative student or student team.

They also entered the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Business Idea Challenge and received the first-place award. The challenge offers local college students and recent alumni the chance to showcase their entrepreneurial talents in a head-to-head business competition.

“The professors at Penn State were extremely helpful to our team from the start,” said Moyer. “Their willingness to go beyond their required duties has had a big effect on our success. The Alumni Association has also been instrumental in staying in contact and offering support.

“Currently Anthony, Jason and I are still working together along with two longtime Penn State alumni who are helping with financing and finalizing our product design for production. We are also working on an array of services to supplement our product, such as piloting, unmanned aerial education, and much more.”

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated November 12, 2015