Franklin Innovation Challenge introduces new format, engages student leaders

Teams in the Franklin Innovation Challenge had three hours to develop a prototype product that solved a social issue in an innovative way. Photo by Krissy Montville '14

Teams in the Franklin Innovation Challenge had three hours to develop a prototype product that solved a social issue in an innovative way. Photo by Krissy Montville ’14

By Steven Viera, News Editor ||

On Friday, March 28, the College held the fourth-annual Franklin Innovation Challenge (FIC) in the Alumni Sports & Fitness Center (ASFC). In the past, the challenge was an event where students developed creative ways to resolve social needs, with prizes available to the first, second, and third place winners.

Students had the opportunity to form teams of four to six members, along with a faculty or staff adviser, to compete in the FIC. A panel of judges evaluated finalists, and winning teams won cash prizes of up to $500, $250, or $100 for first, second, and third place wins, respectively. Registration for the FIC closed on Friday, March 7.

This year, the competition changed its format to that of a race; each team worked to construct a test product in from specific supplies within a three-hour time limit. The product they needed to design, a prototype house, was kept a secret until the start of the race.

“The event is designed to be fun, competitive and educational,” said Mark Kuhn ’85, executive in residence for the business, organizations & society (BOS) Department. According to an article on F&M’s news website, “Innovation Challenge Tests Creative Thinking on a Deadline,” Kuhn supports and manages the FIC along with the Office of Student & Post-Graduate
Development (OSPGD).

“We wanted to breathe some new energy into the event and make it easier for students to participate,” Kuhn continued. “All students will be on equal footing with this new structure. Innovation and creativity will be the key differentiators.

According to the F&M news article, teams were judged on their team dynamics, leadership, design approach, the products they created, and their innovation. Teams were encouraged to include members of varying ages, genders, cultures, backgrounds, and fields of study.

The winning team was composed of women from Kappa Delta: Margi Shah ’14, Arnela Ombasic ’14, Kasey Murphy ’15, Colleen Gallagher ’16, Shaina Reji ’17, Clara Dannemann ’17, and Kate Plass, assistant professor of chemistry and the team’s faculty member.

“I really liked working with students in a new way,” Plass said. “My team worked together well and we all had a lot of fun.”

According to Gallagher, the team spent about 30 minutes writing ideas and planning the development of their house before starting to work with materials, with a focus on making the house both functional and environmentally friendly. Their final model was a two-story home designed for a family of two adults and two children that included a greenhouse, a multi-story fireplace, solar panels, a thermoelectric generator, and other features.

“This event was a great exercise in teamwork,” Gallagher said.

The FIC began as an idea between Bryan Stinchfield, assistant professor of organization studies, Trex Proffitt, former professor in the BOS department, and Keith Jones ’89, former executive in residence for the BOS department and Harris Fellow, who hoped to be able to create a program to foster entrepreneurship among the student body.

“There were a shocking number of students and faculty alike that felt the need to point out that we were the only all-female team there — and quite a few made it sound like a disadvantage,” Gallagher said. “So it was really satisfying to hear that first place went to ‘the ladies of Kappa Delta.’ I felt like we represented our organization well.”

Sophomore Steven Viera is the News Editor. His email is sviera@fandm.edu.

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