“My freshman year, I remember walking into a packed Innovatrium for a mass meeting and trying to find an open spot to sit. The room was dim until the directors came out and started presenting their projects and the energy they gave off was truly exhilarating. From that moment on, I was starstruck and knew I wanted to be a part of MPowered.”

That is how MPowered’s President, Ellen Tsao (CSE, Senior), describes her first experience with MPowered. One of the largest and oldest entrepreneurship focused student organizations at the University of Michigan, MPowered was founded to jumpstart the entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus and pave the way for other entrepreneurship organizations to follow.

“MPowered’s portfolio of projects focuses on bringing entrepreneurship to all corners of campus with each project highlighting everyone’s inner entrepreneur,” said Ellen. “Our vast outreach to local companies and schools further unites the U-M community to the broader Ann Arbor community.”

With the pandemic continuing into 2021, MPowered continued to adapt and pressed forward with their usual winter programming: Trailblaze, Makeathon, and Startup Career Fair.


This 36-hour design competition that aims to pull the most passionate artists, designers and creators for a weekend full of creativity and innovative breakthrough was also reimagined in the current COVID environment.

“I felt it provided for a great space and opportunity for people to get involved and collaborate with others to build something they believe in,” said Makeathon Co-Director Dharivi Bansal (CSE, sophomore). “Even though it was a virtual event, I believe we were able to preserve the essence of collaboration and innovation.”

The event, sponsored by The Center for Entrepreneurship, Arts Engine, AutoDesk, and the Office of Student Affairs in the College of Engineering, had more than 45 students joining the virtual competition, with 33 teams presenting their original ideas. 

Winners from various categories included XiaoYu Che and Jack Zhao’s board game, Samuel Forman and Gurish Sharma’s Pruning Robot, and Kade Ethan Wong and Daniel Yan’s Haptic Feedback Implementation for Affordable Upper Limb Prosthesis.

“I feel that this event was a great way for participants from across the university to explore their own interests and it provided a platform for them to get feedback from more experienced individuals about their products,” said Dharivi. “Makeathon is a great way to dive deeper into one’s entrepreneurial side and become creative with things at hand.”


As the name suggests, this yearly career fair brings in startups and newly founded companies seeking top talent.

“This event allows students to find internships and jobs at high growth startups which gives them a chance to work in promising startups in a variety of fields,” said SCF Co-Director Felix Partington (CSE, sophomore). “Hopefully, by working with startups, they are more likely to recommend others consider working in startups and maybe even start their own one day.”

This year MPowered partnered with Ann Arbor SPARK to secure local startups seeking students. More than a hundred students signed up for interview slots as this year’s event also went virtual.

“I wanted to make students aware of opportunities outside of the typical large companies that recruit at Michigan,” said Felix. “Our goal as a team was to increase the entrepreneurial spirit on campus and I think that we accomplished this.”


“TrailBlaze has been an opportunity to invite middle schoolers from diverse backgrounds into the world of innovation,” said TrailBlaze Director Elina Mangal (CS and Cognitive Science, Sophomore). “I want kids to see that they all have entrepreneurs within them and feel ‘MPowered’ to step into the world with a strong entrepreneurial skillset and mindset.”

The TrailBlaze program brought together 120 8th grade students from Cesar Chavez Middle School in a virtual format. The first section was a TEDTalk style presentation by three entrepreneurs: Andrea Wolf from Organize Detroit, Jordyn Wolf/Ella Sturtz (high schoolers) that started a small neighborhood startup called BaGals (they deliver bagels in their neighborhoods and surrounding areas), and Evan Krasnick an undergraduate LSA student who founded the startup Ecko. This was then followed by a Q&A with the speakers. 

Elina said she “also wanted to take on the challenge of hosting virtual learning events for the toughest audience possible – middle schoolers.”

Finally, the entrepreneurs worked with the students on a “middle school version” of the Business Model Canvas. Students were divided into breakout rooms and created an imaginary startup that solves an issue chosen by the students.

“This event was able to bring U-M students together to engage with middle schoolers across Michigan communities to learn from three diverse entrepreneurs’ experiences,” said Elina. “It also showed us how difficult it is to create a virtual learning environment where kids want to engage and participate – which seems like an interesting problem for budding entrepreneurs at U-M to think about!”


“MPowered’s portfolio of projects focuses on bringing entrepreneurship to all corners of campus with each project highlighting everyone’s inner entrepreneur,” said Ellen. “Our vast outreach to local companies and schools further unites the U-M community to the broader Ann Arbor community.”

This is the ultimate goal of MPowered, to introduce students at any school or college to entrepreneurship and find a sense of community amongst like-minded peers. So, should students seek out student organizations like MPowered?

“I believe that students should look into joining entrepreneurship organizations on campus because of the perspective they can give,” said Felix.

“I think that entrepreneurship is more like a way of thinking and if one is driven to achieve success despite the highs and lows and enjoys problem solving, entrepreneurship is the way to go,” said Dharivi.

Beyond all the ways this can benefit a student while working toward a degree, Elina suggested that it goes beyond your time at the University of Michigan.

“An entrepreneurial skillset or mindset isn’t about founding a startup – it’s a life skill. Students who get involved with entrepreneurship at U-M are creatives, innovators, and problem-solvers. You understand how to create change rather than complain about problems. You learn how to hustle, to make things work, and that is going to stay with you wherever you go and whatever you do.”

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