For Port Washington resident Paul Hyman and his family, college tuition won’t be an issue. Hyman, who graduates in June, will attend Potsdam-based Clarkson University as one of two winners of its Young Innovators Award.
For Hyman, that means a full scholarship to the small private university.
Back in April, Hyman competed in Clarkson’s Young Entrepreneurs and Innovators Program. The university offers merit-based financial aid as well as guidance and support from Clarkson’s faculty and alumni mentors. Hyman will run his fire-safety product company, Safety Technology Solutions, at the university's business incubator while earning his undergraduate degree. In exchange, he is giving Clarkson a 10 percent equity share of his business.
Hyman had his heart set on the university, whose tuition runs $37,000 a year. He loved the school's "small close-knit community" and "hands-on approach." So when he received a postcard about Clarkson's innovators program in January, he gave the contest his best shot.
A volunteer with the , Hyman knew where to find inspiration.
“I went to the firehouse,” he said “We began talking about what areas need improvement.”
The brainstorming session led to ideas for two products. One product is a sensor that prevents dryer fires, which experts say is a common cause of household fires. The other product is an enhanced, cost-effective facemask, which among other benefits, provides firefighters vision in a blackout environment allowing first-responders to locate victims and downed personnel, and find their way out of a disorienting situation even in the most heavy fire conditions.
In entering the competition, Hyman wrote up a business plan for his company. He also created a 90-second video and a brief description of the business. He was one of five finalists pitching ideas to a panel at Clarkson, and only one of two contendors to score free tuition.
Hyman said he's loved building things ever since he was a kid. In high school, he pursued robotics, physics and auto-tech, and enrolled in a college engineering course.
“I like to get my hands dirty,” he said, adding that his coursework “really helped” in nailing down his proposal.
Around the firehouse, Hyman is considered a doer.
“His determination and eagerness to learn has been noticed by the company officers and his fellow fire fighters,” said James Dello-Iacono, captain of Atlantic Hook & Ladder Co. 1. “Paul also stands out among his fellow probationary fire fighters by his desire to increase his knowledge and abilities. We at Atlantic Hook & Ladder see very bright things in his future.”
Hyman was praised by Matt Draper, deputy director of Clarkson’s Shipley Center for Innovation, who noted that the young firefighter "idenitified a problem near and dear to his heart and invented a complete solution that we look forward to helping him commercialize.”
Now, Hyman seems game for almost any challenge.
“My outlook was very different just a few months ago,” he said. “I never imagined that I’d be where I am now.”