Deanne Bell

My interest in engineering started when…

I grew up in a family where we made “stuff,” and no matter how ugly it may have been, my parents would put that stuff on display. That fostered an environment where I learned to respect the process of making, not just the final product.

As I got older, my friends and I joined an after-school program, where we would invent and build inventions almost every day. We would bring our whimsical ideas to life using cardboard, paint, wood and motors salvaged from thrift store purchases.

By the time I was 13, I learned to use basic power tools, which allowed me to build, fail and try again.

How I went from engineer to TV host…

I started my career as an engineer in Corporate America, but I had a desire to get out and see the world. So, I took a leave of absence from my employer to backpack solo around Asia and Australia. While surfing the web in Manila, I saw a casting call for a mechanical engineer to host a TV show. After a few email exchanges with the casting director, I had a glass of wine with a German pig farmer. He said he thought I should go and I knew he was right. I cut my trip short and flew back to the U.S. to audition for the role. I’ve never looked back.

Most surprising things I have learned from hosting Make Me a Millionaire Inventor

I’ve been most impressed and surprised by how much people are willing to put on the line for their invention. Our inventors have mortgaged houses, sold cars, and quit jobs to make their ideas happen. The emotions are so raw and real when they see their new prototype for the first time. That gets amplified tenfold after their pitch. They are all in at that point.

Key elements I look at when evaluating inventors’ ideas…

Every design or invention is different, but the key things I look for are: Does the invention solve a problem, address a need, or is it just so cool that people will love it? (We are on TV, after all). What is the market size? And what is the inventor’s current inertia – are they making progress or are they completely stagnant?

My best advice for entrepreneurs going from an idea to a prototype…

Dive in. You’re never going to know everything, but if you dive in, you will figure it out along the way. The hardest part is taking the first step.

The next steps entrepreneurs should take to turn their prototype into a business…

Listen. It’s not about telling your customers what they want, rather it’s about listening to your customers and making sure your product is what they need.

3 essential components of a great business pitch…

  1. Confidence in yourself and the product
  2. Know your customer and market opportunity
  3. Know your competition

How can entrepreneurs best prepare for pitching their business to investors…

While the presentation breaks the ice, the real meat of our investor pitches is in the question and answer. Make a great first impression, but make sure your brain is filled with the knowledge you need to answer an investor’s questions confidently.

My best piece of advice for entrepreneurs building their networks…

Be present and say yes to new opportunities. Call, email and actively seek experts and mentors.

Top 3 resources for entrepreneurs learning about patents…

  1. Use this website to conduct a thorough patent search.
  2. Understand the difference between design and utility patents using this website.
  3. Find a good lawyer. Intellectual property (IP) is important, but can also give entrepreneurs a false sense of security. It’s important to clearly understand why and/or if you need a patent and how you will be able to leverage, protect and/or license your IP. Patents don’t make money, businesses do.

My vision for FutureEngineers.org…

At Future Engineers we pair K-12 innovation challenges with inspiring brands and media. Using our online platform, we connect our teachers and students to engineering lessons. Children may not know about engineering but do know a lot about brands, movies or any and all things cool. We use the cool factor to bring engineering to life. We’re off to a smashing start with our 3D printing challenges and we intend to offer more types of challenges in 2017.

Ways that we can inspire the next generation of women in STEM…

Research shows that we need to engage students, particularly young girls, with STEM by the time they are 12 years old. My opinion: why wait until 12? Let’s start in kindergarten!

If you work in tech, be a visible example, share your passion with students and volunteer as a mentor at least once a year. If you don’t work in tech, then my advice is: don’t be intimidated. One of our goals at Future Engineers is to empower parents and teachers who may not be experts in a subject matter, like 3D design for example, with the resources needed to introduce a child to those skills nonetheless.

The trends in engineering and science that I am most excited about…

All of them! I love it all. But as a mechanical engineer, I particularly nerd out on advanced manufacturing and 3D printing. Nowadays, anyone can make a prototype with a 3D printer. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a curious student, it’s quite empowering to hold your idea in your hand.

The most important habits that keep me productive…

Setting weekly goals. People always need more time than I have to offer, so I have to prioritize and set weekly goals. It can get overwhelming if I don’t.

How I evaluate which career opportunities to pursue…

Is this something I would be proud to tell others about?

The qualities that make a great engineer…

Imagining the impossible and then making it happen! And not being afraid to fail and try again… and again… and again.

Must-read books for entrepreneurs…

I’d be lying if I said I had time to read much over the past few years, which I am sure many entrepreneurs can relate to… but, anything Lean Startup related is a great place to start.