Alumnus connects student innovators, hobbyists with specialized electronics
Who they are
As a kid growing up in Newburgh, Ind., Brandon Stevens became fascinated with electronics, building his first radio receiver at the age of seven. Between 4-H projects on basic electrical and computing principles and tinkering with his own homemade control systems for quiz bowl tie-breakers, ventilation fans and model railroad layouts, Stevens always had a project in the works, a characteristic that followed him to Purdue where he studied electrical and computer engineering technology (ECET) as an undergraduate and graduate student.
The son of two small-business owners, Stevens noticed a dearth of consumer-grade electronics kits for hobbyists trying to get their hands on specialized parts and young people just beginning to learn about electronics. In the final year of his ECET master's program at Purdue, Stevens conceived Electronics Education In A Box (EE In A Box), an online retail store dedicated to supplying and educating the next generation of electronics innovators and hobbyists.
What they're doing
As the primary supplier of electronics parts for students at Purdue's main and regional campuses, EE In A Box has found its niche as a reliable source for items such as microprocessors, electrolytic capacitors and wire kits, parts engineers and hobbyists across the country use to build electronic systems that solve real-world problems. Since 2005, electronic hobbyists have been using parts supplied by EE In A Box to complete lab work and in senior projects where they build student-designed electronic devices – some of which have commercial appeal.
As a sole proprietor, Stevens plans on expanding his venture to include educational kits to teach hobbyists about topics such as digital logic, microprocessor controls and electronic amplifiers. In 2013, EE In A Box began development on its first educational module, designed to teach young children about circuits. The module is being developed by an intern Stevens contracted through the Interns for Indiana program, a Purdue initiative that matches startup companies with high-quality undergraduate student interns.
How they got there
No stranger to entrepreneurship, Stevens owned and operated his own lawn care and landscaping business as a youth. As a member of the 4-H Junior Leaders, he negotiated with vendors and managed the club food stand at the Warrick County 4-H Fair several years. He leaned on the knowledge gained from both experiences when writing a business plan for EE In A Box, which he entered in the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition.
To turn his plan into reality, Stevens consulted resources from the Indiana Small Business Development Center and Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He registered the domain name for the EE In A Box website with GoDaddy.com and established distributor relationships with manufacturers of electronic hobby parts.
For development meetings, Stevens rents space at the Docking Station, a space dedicated for entrepreneurship activities located in Chauncey Village near Purdue's campus. He networks with local entrepreneurs and business owners during "Friday Morning at the Morton Center" events sponsored by the Purdue Innovation and Commercialization Center-IT (ICC-IT). For new ideas on entrepreneurship, Stevens also makes a point to attend meetings and public presentations organized by the Krannert School of Management, Purdue Research Foundation and Verge, an organization of Lafayette-area software developers and entrepreneurs.
"Don't get discouraged if people aren't enthusiastic about your idea. Nobody is going to be as enthusiastic about your idea as you," Stevens says.