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Tukel goes from making energy drinks to building drones

January 13, 2016

21 year-old Honors MedStart student Matthew Tukel has his hands full. He is in the process of selling 313 Energy, the energy drink he created at age 17, to a local beverage distributor. He spends his weekends building drones and just finished a 3-year stint at Park Family Healthcare, a Detroit clinic serving low-income patients. Matthew also mentors and speaks to high-school and college students about his experience creating and managing a company.

313 Energy was born in an entrepreneurship class at West Bloomfield's Frankel Jewish Academy. Matthew and classmate Saywer Altman set out to create a marketable product that would give back to the community. Brainstorming ideas, they agreed “Detroit needs energy.” That idea started the process of bringing 313 Energy to life as the all-natural, low-calorie, Detroit-based energy drink that donates 11 cents of every can sold to the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. “The drink not only energizes the consumer, it energizes DPS students through donations” Tukel explains. In 2014, 313 Energy was awarded a prestigious Champion of Education award from the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.

Local entrepreneur Josh Linkner, a founding partner of Detroit Venture Partners, reached out to Tukel and Altman after reading about 313 Energy and offered them guidance in turning their idea into a full-fledged company.

Managing and distributing an energy drink is time consuming for a full-time college student. When Altman went to Stanford and Matthew began WSU, the Tukel family stepped in to help. Even though 313 Energy is changing ownership, Matthew will continue to be involved and the DPS partnership will continue. “If you’re trying to revitalize the city, it starts with the students.”

Another interest of Matthew’s is drone technology. When he realized WSU did not yet have a student interest group, he founded Detroit Aerial Innovations (formally Detroit Drone), which aims to promote and facilitate technology, entrepreneurship, and craftsmanship as it relates to the rapidly growing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sector. Students are provided the knowledge, resources, and materials needed to construct their own UAV model. Detroit Aerial Innovations plans to focus on the social impacts and implications of UAV’s and more specifically, how these devices can be used as tools in society and their place in the revitalization of Detroit. Recently, Detroit Aerial Innovations partnered with Detroit Aircraft Corp. to further learn about the development of experimental aircraft from local experts. The students spend weekends at Coleman A. Young International Airport (formally Detroit City Airport) testing, building and yes, occasionally crashing, drones. To watch Matthew’s UAV video of Detroit from a birds-eye, visit detroitdrone.org.

Matthew’s goal is to be a surgeon and explore entrepreneurship and technology within medicine.  Based on his achievements thus far, we have no doubt he will keep inventing, exploring and giving back to the community.

A third-generation WSU student, the university is in Matthew’s genes. His father and grandfather are alumni of WSU’s Medical School and his mother is an alumnus of WSU’s Speech Pathology program. Connor, Matthew’s younger brother, is enrolled in the MedStart program in the Irvin D. Reid Honors College as well.

Matthew’s major is Near Eastern Languages and plans to attend WSU Medical School in fall 2017.