An idea for a new way to conserve water had been floating around in Robert Endrizzi’s mind for years, even before he started law school. So when supervisors in a UConn Law clinic asked if he had an entry for the Hinkle Entrepreneurship Competition, he didn’t have to think for long.
“I said, you know, I actually have this idea … “ he recalls. This month, Endrizzi ’17 (ENG) was named winner of the competition, which comes with a $7,000 award and support from the law school’s Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic to help develop his concept.
He envisions a device that will make it easier to turn the water in a shower off and back on rapidly, so that water isn’t wasted when it’s not needed. The trick, he says, will be to make it affordable and easy to retrofit to an existing shower.
“You don’t want to have to call a plumber or electrician and drill holes through tubs and such,” he says.
Endrizzi, who is known to his friends as Bobby, is a third-year student in the Evening Division who grew up in Old Saybrook. He graduated from the School of Engineering in 2017 and works full time as an electrical engineer in the cockpit design and architecture team of Lockheed Martin in Stratford.
His decision to attend law school grew out of a longstanding interest in technology, a belief that protecting intellectual property is critical to the current economy, and the encouragement of his aunt, who is a lawyer, he says.
“She always told me, ‘Hey, you have the engineering degree. You know, it’s a good combination to think about an engineering and law degree.’ ”
His employers have also been encouraging, he says. He has been invited to attend meetings of the company’s Intellectual Property Review Board, which reviews invention disclosures and decides whether to pursue patents. He has also found mentors in the company’s legal department.
Lockheed’s switch to a compressed four-day workweek has given Endrizzi room to schedule work in the Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic on Fridays. He’s now in his third semester with the clinic.
“It’s been a lot of fun working with individual inventors and small businesses in Connecticut, to help them file patents and prosecute them and get them to allowance,” he says. “It’s been an invaluable experience.”
Diane Covello, the clinic’s supervising attorney, says Endrizzi’s technical expertise, along with his energy and creativity, have been valuable to the clinic’s clients. “I’m particularly impressed with Bobby’s representation of IP Clinic clients who are innovators in the computer hardware and software spaces,” she says. “For example, in his work with a designer of gaming accessories and a developer of a unique web platform, he provided insightful advice regarding the best ways to protect certain features of their inventions with patents and trade secrets.”
Endrizzi says his law school classes have trained him in a different way of thinking. A legal question may not have one clear answer, and multiple possibilities have to be considered. “More than one answer — that is not an engineering thing,” he says.
The law school has also introduced him to a uniquely supportive kind of education, he said, particularly when it comes to the faculty. “They just really go above and beyond to make sure they’re supporting you, and the campus, it’s like a big family,” he says.
Endrizzi describes his schedule of work and law school as “a lot, but manageable.” He credits his family and girlfriend for “always doing what they can to make life easier for me.” It’s important to ask for help when he needs it, to stay organized, and to know when to take a break, he says.
“I make sure that at least one day a weekend I don’t sit at my desk and that I have some fun,” he says.
Now added to his busy schedule are the tasks of finalizing the design of his water conservation device and researching potential competition, which he aims to complete by the end of the year. Then on to prototyping and testing.
Winning the Hinkle competition was the impetus he needed to get the process going, Endrizzi says. The financial award, provided by an endowment fund established by Muriel and David Hinkle ‘76, will be a crucial resource. Support from the Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic and other state programs for businesses will also be critical, he said.
He plans to follow the strategy that has aided him throughout law school by taking advantage of all the help that’s available. “It’s really impressive,” he says. “The state does a good job.”