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Last December, George Keeler took home the grand prize in the 2008 Joan F. & John M. Thalheimer Student Entrepreneurship Contest for his invention, the multi-functional G-paK backpack. In his own words, George explains how he did it.

"I am pursuing a dual degree in product design and marketing at Lehigh. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and I went to Wayland High school. Since I was five years old, I have been an avid camper and hiker as well as a gear enthusiast. I grew up fly-fishing, rock hopping and camping in the Adirondack Mountains. During the other half of my summers, I was surfing and sailing on Martha's Vineyard.

Backpacks have always been one of my favorite outdoor accessories. I own several bags for different situations and I am constantly switching between them. In the summer, I needed a lightweight pack for fishing and bringing things to the beach. When I was camping, I needed a waterproof bag that I could take cliff jumping. Waist packs worked well in the woods for holding smaller tools and items, but I considered them to be dorky to bring to the beach.

This summer, I began to think about exactly what I needed in a backpack. I pulled together all the features from other packs that really interested me. As an employee at REI, I sold hundreds of backpacks and in my free time, I had the chance to fully inspect every detail of all the top selling backpacks. I helped customers find the pack that best fit them and at the same time, I learned what features customers liked the best. I sold more packs by pointing out these features.

I came up with the idea for the G-paK because I wanted a lightweight waterproof backpack that looked like nothing else out there. I hate dressing like everyone else and wearing the same Jansport or L.L. Bean backpack, so I put all my ideas together and started sketching the G-paK. This new idea motivated me to teach myself how to sew. After borrowing my neighbor's sewing machine and honing my skills, I able to start prototyping the G-paK.

The first few versions I constructed were very crude and either functioned properly but looked bad, or barely worked and looked great. I continuously experimented with different fabrics, strap styles, and closure methods until I came up with the fifth and current prototype. This is the version George Guest would produce. It is the perfect combination between functionality and style.

Roll top bags always interested me because they were so unique, but closing them was more time consuming then zippering a bag shut. I entered the G-paK into the Lehigh Student Entrepreneurship Contest along with a business plan. I was lucky enough to win the grand prize, which included $5,000 in seed funding from the Thalheimers, Lehigh alumni who graduated in 1955."

For more information, visit: http://www3.lehigh.edu/News/V2news_story.asp?iNewsID=2536.