Students Apply Entrepreneurial Thinking to Pandemic Problem-Solving
Students were asked to explore the many issues that have arisen since the emergence of COVID-19 last March, and work toward developing innovative solutions for a selected issue with the understanding that pitches may build upon products or services that already exist in the market. Students were encouraged to redesign existing solutions or create new ones that are more sustainable going forward.
“The UC-Imagine Fest is one of many experiential opportunities that encourage students to develop and apply an entrepreneurial mindset to important world problems,” said Entrepreneur-in-Residence Maureen Cumpstone ’79. “COVID-19 is a global event that has created disruption in many, if not all, aspects of our lives. Typically, crises of this magnitude force significant changes in the status quo. Many new ideas are born out of the constraints that crises present, when there are no alternatives left but to change. We have seen this across all types of institutions, including our own.
“The goal of the UC-Imagine Fest was to challenge students to think about the problems that the crisis has created and propose unique solutions to those problems. Students rose to the challenge and created solutions that revolved around PPE sustainability, educational innovations, and mask improvements.”
During the two-day event held in November, students from a variety of majors worked to identify problems to address; develop innovative solutions, receiving guidance from the event’s mentors; and then pitch their final plan to the judges, who evaluate the quality of the pitch, as well as the solutions offered. Throughout the process, students must communicate the validity of the problem and offer a creative solution that meets the needs of a reachable market.
The top teams were as follows:
First Place: Project Light, developed by Jake Amendola-Reichard ’24, Eve Peiffer ’21, and Joe Shapiro ’24, is a process for disinfecting PPE for healthcare workers. The design is a wardrobe equipped with four pulsating UVC lights that can kill viruses and bacteria in under two minutes.
Second Place: Speaking for Success, developed by Theodora Zeibekis ’24 and Isabella Villegas ’24, is an online educational platform created to help bridge the gap between classroom learning and Zoom learning. The online platforms are focused on teaching, encouraging, and empowering students to continue staying engaged with their online classes.
Third Place: Interactive Education, developed by Kevin Gonzales ’24 and Tyler Ways ’24, provides educators with a broad range of virtual games, activities, and tools to use to customize their lesson plans. Through the use of these platforms, teachers can encourage overall interaction with their students, and increase motivation and engagement.
Delanie Rodgers ’23, Will Pastor ’24, and Christian Ndaye ’21 received honorable mentions.
Keynote speakers for the event were Irene Hess ’18, director of business development for the Hershey Pantry Restaurant Group and founder of From Chocolate with Love, and Shayann Ramedani ’17, an M.D., medical researcher, and research fellow at the Penn State College of Medicine.
Mentors were present to meet with each team. They provide guidance to help keep pitches comprehensive and persuasive as teams work to create a simple business model, prepare a presentation draft, and practice their pitch. Mentors for the event were Susan Hundley, clinical director at Covance; Jonathan Gerhartz ’18, data analyst at Voyager; and Johnathan Myers ’19, analyst in the office of investments at Drexel University.
Judges were Haley Sturla ’20, marketing specialist at Vertex Inc.; Brian Landis ’15, corporate strategist and entrepreneur at Tekcom LLC; and Christian D’Ascenzo ’20, vice president of Total Work Place Solutions Group.