Three teams affiliated with Smith Engineering walked away with half of the prize pool of funding at the most recent Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition (DDSPC).

For over a decade, the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) has supported entrepreneurs through startup incubators, workshops, programs, courses, and pitch competitions. Twelve teams from the Kingston and Queen’s communities developed business ventures to compete this past summer for a share of the DDSPC’s $80,000 prize pool.

Kathy Sheng (Sc’21, Civil Engineering) and Jay Patel (MEng’23, Chemical Engineering) are co-founders of it’s comma and GLASQ, respectively. Both ventures placed second, each winning $15,000 in funding. The third-place team, Demagel, founded by Chemical Engineering grad Siziwe Bebe (PhD’08) took home $10,000.       

Sheng and Patel discussed their ventures and how they’ll use the new influx of funding.


it’s comma

it’s comma is all about philanthropic marketing in the women’s health space. Right now, Sheng and her two co-founders are looking to partner with brands to advertise on the packaging of menstrual pads. This would cover the cost of the product, making it free for menstruators. 

“Our aim is to have menstrual accessibility everywhere, especially in public spaces, making sure that menstruators are covered wherever they go,” she says.

Sheng and her co-founders Aidan Gurung and Wendy Li met and began developing it’s comma at the DDQIC’s 16-week Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI). They were all interested in tackling a women’s health issue, and soon landed on the topic of menstrual accessibility after speaking with hundreds of women and business owners. 

Sheng says her interest in launching a startup really began during her undergrad days, where she naturally gravitated to the entrepreneurial elements of her applied science courses. “I always liked it when I could develop those problem solving, communication and project management skills key to entrepreneurship.”

She also says that the research skills she has been cultivating as a master’s student have been useful for developing the business idea behind it’s comma.

As for the near future of the venture, the co-founders will use the $15,000 to visit a menstrual pad manufacturer overseas to ensure they’re up to our quality standards and partner with advertisers. 

“In five years, I would love our products to be in all Canadian universities and many other public spaces, like banks,” says Sheng. “But the overarching goal is to build awareness for menstrual accessibility and to get companies thinking about how this is a problem that needs to be addressed.” 


Wendy Li, Aidan Gurung, and Kathy Sheng




Like Sheng, Jay Patel met his co-founders Brock Newell, Yasi Shahidian, and Mia Hao and developed his startup at QICSI this summer. It didn’t take long for the four team members to focus on commercializing a particular polymer coating technology that had been patented by Queen’s University’s Partnerships and Innovation. 

After four months of reaching out to industry contacts, the team at GLASQ discovered that the best application for this coating would likely be flexible consumer displays, including foldable cellphones. 

“The problem with those foldable devices is that the glass that’s used on top of the screens can collapse and it doesn’t have a protective layer,” says Patel. “So we said, let’s provide a coating solution which will go on top and provide features like anti-smudge, high hardness, and high flexibility so that it can protect the screen as well as give a good experience to the user.” 

Patel recently earned his master’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Queen’s and he notes two courses in particular that he found instrumental in helping him develop GLASQ.

One was APSC 896 Engineering Leadership, led by Assistant Professor Paul Hungler. Patel says the active learning in that class proved to important for building his own leadership ability and helping manage GLASQ’s team dynamics.

The other vital course was APSC 888 Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship led by Professor James McLellan, who is also the academic director of DDQIC. “We really had to think from the customers’ perspective during coursework,” says Patel. “That’s so important because in working toward finding an optimal solution like this one for GLASQ, the biggest thing to consider is the customer perspective and what they need.”  

GLASQ is currently completing market research to figure out if the coating technology is indeed optimal for foldable devices. 

“We have to ensure that this is the tech that the market needs and that it works for both GLASQ and Queen’s,” says Patel. “But we like this idea a lot, so we’re hopeful.” 


Brock Newell, Yasi Shahidian, Mia Hao, and Jay Patel