07 Mar 2023 |
Research article |
Entrepreneurship & Management
From Student to Employer, an Enthusiast’s Journey
Michaël Singleton, a mechanical engineering graduate from ÉTS, is part of the research and development team of BeOneBreed, a start-up recently acquired by Groupe Legault. His final year project was the springboard to his dream job.
Today, it is he who proposes projects to ÉTS graduates.
There was Once an Idea and Three Cats
It all started when Michaël was choosing a project for his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at ÉTS. He had several options, but one was of particular interest to him—one proposed by Professor Lucas Hof. BeOneBreed, a company specializing in animal products, wanted to integrate a semi-automated litter box into its technology product line. The goal was to facilitate litter box cleaning in a single rotation with a tilting tray at the back of the box. No more unpleasant chores—Michaël knows a thing or two about this since he has three cats!
BeOneBreed founder Anthony Deraps, impressed with the prototype designed by the aspiring engineering team that included Michaël Singleton, wished to pursue the experiment. He submitted two more ideas for interactive products to Professor Lucas Hof and wanted Michaël Singleton to be involved in the process. Young Michaël’s enthusiasm for BeOneBreed was readily apparent, and developing these products would become part of his master’s degree. Professor Lucas Hof, in collaboration with Professor Illyass Tabiai, guided Michaël throughout his project. Formerly a designer of interactive toys for people with disabilities and seniors with loss of autonomy, Lucas Hof knows the challenges that future engineers face. “It’s often the first time students work for a real client. They have to use the knowledge they’ve acquired over the past three or four years to create a prototype and test its marketability,” says Hof.
Mechanical Engineering and the Search for Solutions
Michaël Singleton drew on his knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes acquired during his mechanical engineering studies to design two pet accessories: a desensitization device that rewards good behaviour by dispensing kibble and an interactive toy (see header). Equipped with an infrared sensor to detect animal movements, these products are automatically activated when Doggy or Kitty is in the vicinity.
During his master’s studies, Michaël Singleton expanded his knowledge of mechanical engineering, but more importantly, he discovered his growing interest in project management. He decided to pursue this path. A few months before the end of his master’s degree, BeOneBreed hired him on a part-time basis, and in August 2022, Michaël Singleton became a permanent employee.
The pet product sector is proliferating. BeOneBreed surfed the wave and was bought out by Groupe Legault, owner of Mondou stores and Ren’s Pet chain. For Michaël Singleton, a new horizon is opening up. The money is there, the market is there, and he is now working with a team of three developers whose mission is to create technology products, with or without electronic components, to make life easier for pet owners. “The BeOneBreed brand in Quebec will remain associated with innovation, design aesthetics and quality manufacturing,” says Singleton.
Student Turned Employer
Michaël Singleton has every intention of maintaining his special relationship with ÉTS. The logistics are set to create a bridge between industry needs and student expertise. “I have a good network of contacts with ÉTS. It’s easy to gather the necessary resources.” As a representative of BeOneBreed, Michaël sets a list of attributes and targets expectations for the product to be developed, then gives students full rein to find innovative solutions. “The constraints of a work environment do not limit them. They can come up with funky projects and push their thinking further. That’s what we’re looking for.”
FYPs Pave the Way to a Career
Through final year projects, the close collaboration between ÉTS and industry allows students to apply their know-how and companies to explore innovative engineering ideas.
For Professor Lucas Hof, this dialogue with industry is a very effective marketing tool. “It shows companies that engineering can make a difference in their product niche, and it shows students that their efforts can really pay off.”
Michaël Singleton is grateful to BeOneBreed for allowing him to bring together two of his great passions, mechanical engineering and a love of animals. “Starting from scratch and ending up with a product that will meet a need of customers is what motivates me the most,” concludes Michaël. And his career is just starting.