Researchers Awarded VentureWell Research Grant

The grant will support the work being done in high-technology innovations and commercialization

A team of researchers at Texas Tech University was awarded a faculty research grant designed to further cooperation between business, engineering and education in autism research.


The project, entitled “Integrative E-learning course: Bringing together business, engineering, and Autism Spectrum Disorder Students,” is led by Kellilynn M. Frias, assistant professor in the Area of Marketing at the Rawls College of Business; Tim Dallas, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Whitacre College of Engineering; and DeAnn Lechtenberger, director of technical assistance and community outreach for the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research in the College of Education.


Kellilyn Frias

The grant was awarded by VentureWell, a non-profit network that helps young scientists launch ventures designed to improve life. The grant supports Frias’ work in high-technology innovations and commercialization, helping establish a new project-based course for engineering and business students in partnership with the Burkhart Center.

“The project will provide an opportunity for students across campus to work together to generate new ideas and products for the market,” Frias said. “I am excited to work with this diverse group of students and look forward to seeing their innovations come to life throughout the coming semesters. This grant provides us with a tremendous opportunity to showcase our talents at Texas Tech.”


Tim Dallas

The design of this learning experience will entail the creation of E-Teams – each composed of two business students, two engineering students and one Burkhart student – that will focus on technology innovations for and by people with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The student teams are designed to allow for the creative development of new technologies with the intention of pursuing commercialization avenues.

Each team will be faculty-mentored in the area of design and business strategy while the Burkhart Center will provide potential customer (e.g. children and families) data for market research during the technology development and market feedback portions of the course.

DeAnn Lechtenberger

DeAnn Lechtenberger

Each E-team also will have the opportunity to meet with administrators from the Small Business Development Center of West Texas and the university’s Office of Research Commercialization for additional project innovation mentoring.

The Small Business Development Center of West Texas will provide instruction on business plans and avenues for funding while providing guest speakers from the local investor network. The Office of Research Commercialization will offer opportunities for students to participate in pitch competitions, technology accelerator programs and potential funding opportunities should the technologies progress beyond the class.

VentureWell includes a membership of nearly 200 colleges and universities from across the U.S., engaging thousands of undergraduate and graduate student entrepreneurs each year and is a leader in funding, training, coaching and early investment that brings student innovations to the world.

Rawls College of Business

The Rawls College of Business accounts for about 25 percent of Texas Tech graduates.

The college has a full-time teaching staff of roughly 100 in seven academic areas: accounting; energy, economics and law; finance; health organization management; information systems and quantitative sciences; management; and marketing.

The college offers an accredited weekend MBA for Working Professionals program.

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Whitacre College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925.

Approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 725 graduate students pursue bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees offered through eight academic departments: civil and environmental, chemical, computer science, electrical and computer, engineering technology, industrial, mechanical and petroleum.


The Burkhart Center

The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research

The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research is part of the College of Education and is the premier center in Lubbock for research, education and assistance for families affected by autism.

Research at the center covers three major aspects: developing strategies for the preparation of teachers to meet the needs of students, examining ways to develop parent support networks and preparing individuals with autism as they transition from school to adult services.

The Transition Academy, the center’s flagship program, is home to about 15 teenagers and young adults who have an autism spectrum disorder. They come to campus Monday through Friday to learn job and life skills, including how to live independently, and many have jobs through partnerships with campus and community organization.

The Burkhart Center is named for Jim and Jere Lynn Burkhart in honor of their grandson Collin.

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