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Luke Pinkerton

You may not have heard of Helix yet, but Hope engineering graduate Luke Pinkerton is on his way to making it a household word. Luke’s company Polytorx has already exceeded $2 Million in sales. In the process, he has garnered major entrepreneurial awards including: The Michigan Technology Tricorridor Award, A National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Grant, The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Association (NCIIA) Award for Excellence in Marketing, and the prestigious Carrot Capital Business Plan Competition.

After graduating from Hope with engineering and physics degrees in 1997, Pinkerton went on to study for his MS degree at the University of Michigan. There, he worked with Antoine Naaman, U-M professor of structural and materials engineering, to test and produce a product that will hopefully revolutionize the construction industry.

Pinkerton’s products are pieces of twisted, corrosion-resistant wire with triangular cross sections which are added to cement while it is mixing. These small wires act as corkscrews in a cork, effectively increasing the durability of cement by 200%. This is a significant improvement over traditional concrete reinforcement techniques. The product, dubbed “Helix” by the creators, will allow structures such as buildings, roads and airport runways to flex rather than simply cracking. Helix is also a very cost-effective and inexpensive product to make, primarily made of scrap metal from steel-belted tire manufacturers.

The potential uses for Helix are so numerous that Pinkerton rushed to get his MBA at Georgia Tech and founded PolyTorx, a company staffed by himself and several other Georgia Tech MBA graduates which is committed to producing and spreading the word about Helix. The company is currently located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. PolyTorx has been granted several awards, including a $7,750 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Association (NCIIA), an offer of $250,000 in funding from the 2003 Carrot Capital Business Plan Competition, and a $45,000 service package from the 2003 Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition. Pinkerton also accepted the NCIIA/DSEF award for excellence in marketing on behalf of the company. With sales of over $2 million in 2004 and product sales happening in 10 different countries, PolyTorx received $500,000 as winner of the Michigan Technology Tricorridor and a $100,000 National Science Foundation SBIR grant. Helix has even received national attention by being featured on a May 2006 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

When asked about the reason for his success, Pinkerton credits Hope College with providing an effective liberal arts education. “Since starting the business I’m constantly faced with challenges. I can trace many of the tools I use to solve these problems back to classes I took at Hope College,” Pinkerton says. “I strongly believe diverse programs like Hope’s are the key to maintaining the competitiveness of American engineers in the global marketplace…By its very design Hope College’s program encourages development of diverse leadership skills through sports, club activities, class activities and core liberal arts curriculum.”

- Luke Pinkerton, PolyTorx, Hope class of 1997

Sam Klooster

Hope College Alum Sam Klooster, who graduated in 2002 with a major in engineering, was recently hired at the legendary Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in their Advanced Development Projects unit, better known as the “Skunk Works”. The Skunk Works was formed during World War II and has been supplying the United States military with cutting edge flight technology ever since. It is responsible for such planes as the P-38, the P-80 (the United States’ first operational jet fighter), the U-2 spyplane and the F-35.

While at Hope College, Klooster won the VanPutten Engineering Design Award for excellence in the improvement of the U222 outside car mirror vibration while lowering the cost. He also served as Engineering Club President. After graduating from Hope, Klooster went on to Georgia Tech to obtain his masters degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in Controls. His thesis was titled “Vibration Suppression Controller for a Hyper-Active Seat”.

Klooster attributes some of his success to the education and experience he gained at Hope: “Hope College really prepared me well for graduate school and this current job. It got me exactly where I wanted to be.”

-Sam Klooster, Lockheed Martin - Advanced Devopment Projects Unit, Hope class of 2002

Matt Kalajainen

"For me, an engineer is the hub of communication between a network of clients, contractors, consultants, manufacturers, and regulatory agencies. My designs do not end with unsupported ideas and a few napkin sketches. Rather, the designs must be constructible, conform to various codes and standards, and still be suitable to the client.

Hope Engineering gave me a jump-start on my career by combining the power of internships and real-world design experience. Hope's liberal arts education, together with an accredited engineering program, gave me a competitive edge in my profession as an engineer. I am equipped to communicate effectively and think critically while still experiencing the freedom to create. Not only do I feel prepared technically and academically, but I'm beginning with a sound faith and world perspective as well."

-Matt Kalajainen, GMB Architects-Engineers, Hope class of 2002

Lora VanUffelen

"I feel that Hope has prepared me exceptionally well for graduate school. The engineering program has a very broad base, which made the transition to a specialized field like oceanography quite seamless. There is often a distinction made between science and engineering, and I think the fact that I was able to easily step into a very intense scientific program from an engineering background attests to the quality of the engineering program at Hope.

I am taking a wide variety of classes here at Scripps, but the engineering program at Hope prepared me with programming skills necessary for Digital Signal Processing, problem solving skills required in Fluid Mechanics, and scientific reasoning skills need for my class in Physical Oceanography. These same skills are also crucial in a research environment. Although Hope is primarily a teaching college, I felt the engineering program encouraged and facilitated research, which is the basis of any graduate program.

I also want to mention my appreciation for the small class sizes and strong faculty-student relationships at Hope. Most other students here have attended large universities, and the whole concept of actually talking with their professors and asking them questions is foreign to them. The professors that wrote most of their reference letters didn't even know them. Combined with a solid engineering curriculum, this makes Hope College a very special place for undergraduate study and an excellent springboard for graduate work."

- Lora VanUffelen, Assistant Researcher, University of Hawaii, Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Hope class of 2002