YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — As an entrepreneur in a burgeoning field, Zac DiVencenzo understands the importance of being coached, molded, mentored “and having those critical internships that start us off on the right path.”
On Friday, the president and co-founder of JuggerBot 3D introduced those gathered at the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Tech Block Building 5 to the newest intern at the industrial-grade 3D printer manufacturer.
Ty Barzak is a senior at Youngstown State University, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. He is one of the first two interns brought into the YBI through the new Bacon Fellow Internship program, made possible by a nearly $1 million endowment from Vince and Phyllis Bacon.
It’s the first such endowment gifted to the YBI and will benefit students from YSU and Eastern Gateway Community College studying in a STEM field and interested in interning with YBI portfolio companies, said CEO Barb Ewing. The Bacons have supported YBI in the past, including with its Shark Tank event.
“They really saw this as an opportunity to really highlight that YBI is an organization that is transformational for our community,” Ewing said. “Their confidence in us in building this new industry and creating these opportunities for young people is a difference-maker for us.”
The Bacon Fellow Internship program will fund two interns for at least two semesters, but “we can go to a third if it’s the right fit,” she said. The endowment will serve as a nexus point between the YBI’s entrepreneurship program and area institutions of higher learning in an effort to encourage more young professionals to launch their own startups, she said.
“Our holy grail is always to keep our young people in the community, or attract those businesses, those individuals back to us if they left and just really continue to build the vibrancy of this community,” she said.
The Bacon Fellowship will create more opportunities to give students real-world experiences in STEM fields, DiVencenzo said. He credits those local experiences through YSU and America Makes for paving the way for him and JuggerBot co-founder and CEO Dan Fernback to achieve their goals.
“We were also just surrounded by a phenomenal community that supports the young engineers and young people in STEM to promote and grow within this area,” DiVencenzo said. “Having fellows like the Bacons give more opportunity for engineers and people like ourselves to go through that same process is phenomenal. We’re very grateful for that.”
Barzak thanked the Bacons, YBI and YSU for the internship opportunity.
“Having the ability to apply what I’ve learned from the great professors at YSU in a workplace setting and then also build new skills at YBI and JuggerBot allows for the future development of not only me, but companies, entrepreneurs, and STEM students in the Valley,” he said.
The Bacons were inspired to give the endowment after a tour of the YBI and TBB5. Vince Bacon, an engineer by trade, owns Poling & Bacon in Canfield.
“I want to thank Youngstown State University and the YBI for this opportunity to fund some fellowships for some of these organizations,” Bacon said. “We’re proud to support the young people. We were very impressed when we came down here and met some of the people with these organizations.”
“You see all the interesting things that people are doing of all ages. It’s incredible. It’s exciting,” added Phyllis Bacon.
Barzak and Charlie Dwyer, the second Bacon Fellow intern who is also working at JuggerBot, are getting “a significant amount of work time” as if they’re full-time employees, DiVencenzo said. Dwyer is participating in a number of large projects, including the NFL Helmet Challenge.
Work experience at JuggerBot will put the interns on a good path for their eventual job searches, Barzak said.
“Experience is definitely key in any STEM field, especially in engineering with getting into manufacturing,” he said. “I’ve met some of the best people, mentors, entrepreneurs here. And that’s something that a lot of people would take for granted, but I’m going to take advantage of that.”
Moving forward, YBI will work with its portfolio companies to identify specific projects the Bacon Fellow interns can work on each semester, as well as YBI-related projects and sitting in meetings with the incubator’s entrepreneurship team.
“We are pleased to continue our strong relationship with YBI through this new internship program,” YSU President Jim Tressel said. “On behalf of all of us in Youngstown State University and our students, thanks for the opportunities that will come from this.”
Other internship opportunities at YBI include the Monus Entrepreneurship Fellows program, offered in partnership with YSU’s Williamson College of Business Administration, and traditional pre-screened internships, she said.
Pictured at top: On-hand for the announcement of the YBI Bacon Fellow Internship program were JuggerBot 3D President and Co-founder Zac DiVencenzo, intern Ty Barzak, Vince and Phyllis Bacon, YBI CEO Barb Ewing and YSU President Jim Tressel.