Kevin Bourke and Jorge Saenz

Jorge Saenz (left) and Kevin Bourke stand next an airplane engine. The two are working together in a business that developed a cleaning foam for airplane engines.

Originally connected by their passion for robots, two Purdue graduates are now launching a product being marketed to some of the biggest players in the aviation industry.

Jorge Saenz founded AeroCore Technologies in 2011 after developing a cleaning foam capable of being applied to airplane engines and brought on Kevin Bourke to serve as his chief operating officer soon after. The company’s product recently received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, and they are in the process of commercializing the foam.

The two first began working together before Saenz even made it to Purdue.

Saenz was a senior at West Lafayette High School when he first met Bourke, a then-freshman from Arlington Heights, Illinois, studying industrial management and engineering at Purdue.

The pair were from two different states and attending two different schools, but they shared one passion: robots. That passion brought their paths together, as Bourke served as a mentor for Saenz’s high school robotics team.

Ever since, their shared interest in the engineering process has kept them connected.

“Technology, learning and working our hands is something that has always been exciting to us,” Bourke said.

While Bourke was a person of influence for Saenz, he did not hold enough sway to swing Saenz’s interest toward industrial engineering.

Saenz, the son of two Purdue engineering professors, instead chose to pursue mechanical engineering.

Still, the two friends stayed in contact throughout their academic pursuits, and another shared passion for entrepreneurship reignited their cooperative efforts.

As the two progressed in their collegiate careers, they developed an idea for a golf-related product, which they presented at a business pitch competition held on campus.

They won third place. And for their efforts, the two said they took home $500.

If they were to have taken home third place at the competition just one year later, Bourke said they would have been granted thousands more because the program received additional support.

The $500 didn’t cover their investment to that point, and Bourke said the unfortunate timing was their first introduction to the uncontrollable nature of entrepreneurship.

“We had much more than $500 in the company,” Bourke said. “That’s the beauty of being entrepreneurs, we had fun with it, and we learned.”

After leaving college, the two again went their separate ways but maintained their friendship along the way, waiting for the next opportunity to combine their skills.

“We always stayed in touch,” Saenz said. “We decided, ‘Let’s do something together. Let’s accelerate (our careers) together.’”

AeroCore turned out to be that opportunity. Today, the business is moving right along.

A day after the two walked into The Exponent’s office for an interview, they were down in Florida at an airshow, speaking with possible industry partners.

Bourke and Saenz said they plan to give back to Purdue University for all its contributions by offering internships to students interested in the field as their company gains traction.

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