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Union student shines a light on innovation


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The College has a long tradition of inspiring innovation among its students.

Now it can count a “tinnovator” among the ranks.

Using an Altoids tin, an LED light and other materials, Nicholas Brenn '14 created a mini-flashlight. The electrical engineering major from Kennett Square, Pa., is among a host of artists and entrepreneurs who have made belt buckles, iPod speakers and other gadgets fashioned from the 2-by-3-inch tin that holds the popular mints.

Brenn got the idea while in high school and, with the help of his mother, formed his own company, NGB Enterprises. Since then, he has sold hundreds of the flashlight kits, primarily to Edmund Scientifics. Along the way, he also got help from his twin, Gregory ’14, a physics and geology major at Union.

The device recently caught the attention of producers for Anderson Cooper’s new daytime talk show. A few weeks ago, the show paid for a train ticket and hotel room for Brenn to come to New York City to tape an episode focusing on frugality. During a segment on “upcycling” (finding practical uses for items that are typically discarded or recycled), Brenn discussed his invention and presented a couple of the flashlights to Cooper.

“It was cool to see behind the scenes how a show is put together,” said Brenn, who gathered with a fellow students and faculty in Old Chapel to watch the episode on a large screen when it aired Monday, Oct. 24.

Brenn’s dressing room was right next to Cooper’s, and the sophomore had high praise for the popular CNN newsman.

“He’s very intelligent and down to earth,” said Brenn, a Henle Scholar at Union.

The taping for the one-hour show took nearly two hours. When the show aired, Brenn’s screen time was barely a minute long. But he wasn’t complaining.

“That’s show biz,” he said.

To read a story in the Daily Gazette about Brenn’s appearance on the show, click here.

To watch a video of Brenn demonstrating how to make the flashlight, click here.

To learn more about Brenn and other “tinnovators,” click here.