Kayla Simon ‘19, an aerospace engineering major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, will be the Blackstone LaunchPad Watson Scholar for the 2018-19 academic year.
Simon is an active and passionate entrepreneur on campus for the past year and a half, and is excited to be mentoring other students to develop ideas of their own.
In 2017, Simon became an innovator on campus, starting by winning first prize in the Invent@SU program with her co-inventor Elizabeth Tarangelo ’19 for their invention. In-Spire is a wearable aerosol inhaler perfect for on-the-go or emergency situations geared towards improving quality of life for asthma patients. It is a wristband with an asthma inhaler integrated inside of a stylish band that can carry smaller amounts of Albuterol, the medication that aids in keeping the airways of the throat open. Since the team developed and pitched their prototype at demo day of Invent@SU, the invention has received positive feedback, which led to Simon and Tarangelo pushing forward to make this invention a tangible product.
From there, Simon came to the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, part of SU Libraries. Working with the LaunchPad and a team of professional advisors, Simon and Tarangelo have gone on to create a New York State LLC — In-Spire Health – and have won business plans including first place in the Syracuse University Panasci Business Plan Competition, RvD iPrize, Impact Prize, and the campus ACC InVenture Prize. They also represented Syracuse University at the New York State Business Plan Competition, capturing a Women’s Business Award. They were most recently accepted into the prestigious CNY Biotech Accelerator Medical Device Innovation Challenge.
Along with entrepreneurship, Simon is passionate about the space industry, and recently interned at startup Virgin Orbit in Mojave, California, where she met billionaire and serial entrepreneur Richard Branson. She is equally passionate about music and photography. Her energy and charisma makes her a standout, and she is a natural mentoring other creatives, inventors, dreamers and doers.
“Being an entrepreneur, I’ve been able to gain skills I couldn’t have dreamed of, yet I’m still learning every day,” she says. “From all the knowledge I’ve gained over the past year, I’d love to be able to pay that forward and help navigate this process for students who are just starting to develop their ideas.”
It is common to see Simon working in the LaunchPad with students on pitches for business plan competitions, or guiding them through the first steps of thinking about creative ideas. She brings zeal, imagination and intellect – along with incredible patience and empathy, and a great sense of humor.
When she is not doing that, she is working on her own startup, practicing pitches for competitions she is competing in, or meeting with mentors. And, equally important, studying aerospace engineering, because at heart she is a rocket scientist who brings an incredible sense of curiosity and exploration to everything she does.
Through her time as an entrepreneur on campus and in the Upstate community, she knew she wanted to be able to help others make an impact in her community, which led to apply for the Watson Scholar position.
The LaunchPad Watson Scholar role is funded through a generous gift to Syracuse University Libraries from the Hunter Brooks Watson Memorial Fund with the intention for the Watson Scholar to honor the life, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson.
Inspired by Syracuse University’s Remembrance Scholar program to honor the spirit and lives of those lost in the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster, which sprung a beautiful relationship that has changed lives in many ways, the Watson Scholar is a way to honor the life and entrepreneurial spirit of Hunter Brooks Watson, a Syracuse University student who passed away after injuries suffered in a tragic 2016 car accident. He was a rising junior majoring in Information Management and Technology at the iSchool. A passionate entrepreneur, he was interested in music, (playing multiple instruments, performing, recording and producing music videos), sports, and technology. He was especially interested in the emerging field of big data and had been working on new ventures related to predictive data.
Simon will be working with the LaunchPad to help peer mentor students who are in the process of creating and developing their own ideas for ventures, along with helping with awards programs and competitions.
What drew Simon to the position was the meaning behind the position, along with a love of mentorship and impact within the world. In 2012, two of Simon’s friends passed away in a tragic car accident while on their way to a show for their band. “They were passionate about music, science, and leadership, and their love for what they did inspired us every day.” The passing of her friends gave Simon a new perspective on how she views life and friendship, along with opportunity. After her hometown created a memorial in their memory, where anyone can go and remember what they had meant to the community, Simon said, “Having their legacy still vibrant in the community they served and cared for so greatly has given us the ability to keep them alive in a small way.”
Simon is incredibly excited to get started working with students, and really cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit here at Syracuse University. “Innovation is innate in all of us,” she says, “We just sometimes need a push or a resource to access it.”