School of Engineering and Computer Science

OU graduate student inspired to start own business after discovering passion for engineering

icon of a calendarMay 18, 2023

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OU graduate student inspired to start own business after discovering passion for engineering
David Stern
David Stern discovered his passion for engineering at Oakland University and was inspired to start his own business.

As an undergraduate student at Oakland University, David Stern discovered his passion for engineering when he entered Dr. Darrin Hanna’s classroom for the first time in the fall of 2014.

“Originally, my undergraduate degree was going to be in bioengineering,” Stern said. “But on my first day at OU, Dr. Hanna mentioned during class that he was coordinator for the bioengineering program, which made me investigate some of the research he was involved in. I decided during that first class that I wanted to work in his lab.”

Since then, Stern has gone on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering, a Master’s degree in Embedded Systems, and is currently pursuing Doctor of Philosophy degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He also started his own business and employs several OU students, as well.

“It's been fantastic to see David succeed,” said Hanna, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. “Whenever you see a student accomplish what they want — or even figure out what they want — I love it. We like to see happy students that are leading good lives doing something they’re passionate about, and that’s exactly what David is doing. He’s doing great and he’s such a nice person.”

Hanna still recalls meeting Stern for the first time in his EGR 1400 class when Stern was a freshman.

“David was interested in artificial intelligence and he would come up and tell me about something he’d heard about and thought was interesting,” Hanna said. “He would tell me it would be good information to have one day when he’s working in my lab. He would do that three or four times, and sure enough the next semester I had an opening in my lab and I thought of him.”

After joining Hanna’s lab in the summer of 2015, Stern worked on software development projects for commercial products. After gaining experience in hardware design, he was able to work on a research project involving implementing AI algorithms in hardware.

“This research led to my first publication and the experience of presenting at the International Conference of Artificial Intelligence in Las Vegas,” Stern said.

David Stern
David Stern with Kaitlin Johnstone, legislative assistant to Sen.
Debbie Stabenow, and Elena Davis, staff assistant to Sen. Stabenow.

More recently, Stern joined deans and graduate students from across the country to participate in the Council of Graduate School’s (CGS) annual Advocacy Day event, which was held April 26-27 in Washington, D.C.

“The Advocacy Day event was an amazing experience for many reasons,” Stern said. “On our first day, I got to join Graduate School Dean (Brandy) Randall and other members of the CGS in learning about current legislation relevant to the success and growth of graduate education nationwide. We talked about different issues in government and how we could advocate to our federal legislators and members of different committees on behalf of these pieces of legislation and the general ongoing support of graduate school programs.

“The following day we had a packed schedule of meetings with members from the House Education and Workforce Committee, the Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and staff from Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office,” Stern added. “These meetings were our opportunity to express the importance of the legislation and programs our group talked about the previous day including the Pell Grant Program and the LOAN Act. I had the chance to talk about how I have been able to use the mentorship and funding I received at OU to pursue my graduate degrees and start my business in the OU Incubator.”

Stern started his company a few years ago doing software development for a handful of local companies. Starting last year, he began to hire other OU students and alumni to help with his growing business.

“Hiring students from OU has worked out great because I know they are equipped with the skills needed to help our team be successful,” he said. “We are located at the OU Incubator on campus as well, which makes it convenient to work with students that also find themselves on campus frequently.”

Along the way, Stern has continued to receive advice and mentorship from Dr. Hanna, who described his former student as “bright and ambitious.”

“One of the things I love about Oakland University is that no matter what you want to do, there are always people who will help you get there,” Hanna said. “That’s why I’m faculty at OU, because that’s what we do. We help our students find their passion, whatever it is, and point them in the right direction so they can be successful.”

To learn more about OU’s Graduate School, visit

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