Friday, March 10, 2017

2017 Innovation in Action winners decided at final showcase


Dean Elizabeth Birr Moje welcomed a full audience at the March 8 Innovation in Action Final Showcase at the School of Education. Five teams presented final pitches of projects and products that they have been working on throughout the 2016-17 academic year.

The Innovation in Action curriculum provides tools and skills to design innovative solutions to real challenges in education. The curriculum trains participants in design thinking, using empathy maps, understanding consumers, and analyzing the market. This works culminates in a competition which includes $23,500 in cash prizes.

Seven education teams completed the 5-month program. The projects that were selected to present last night are indicated with an asterisk:

Abaca Games
Jatin Gupta, School of Information
Chris Karounos, School of Natural Resources and Environment
Chia Ju Lee, School of Education

Abaca Games is a social impact game design start-up focused on creating video games that educate players about how to take action to mitigate climate change

Biblio Care*
Aayat Ali, School of Social Work
Adrienne Bombelles, School of Social Work
Marna Clowney-Robinson, School of Education

Biblio Care focuses on expanding mental health services on the University of Michigan campus by embedding social workers in 24-hour libraries. These trained staffers provide off-hours crisis counseling, referrals and appointment check-ins for students, and deliver mental health intervention training for University staff during regular business hours.

Books for a Benefit/Sahbi*
Essam Al-Snayyan, LSA
Kush Dawar
Nadine Jawad, Ford School of Public Policy
Corrina Lee, LSA
Noreen Nader, LSA
Neha Tiwari, LSA

Books for a Benefit works to provide accessibility to literacy resources for students who face barriers to education due to race and socioeconomic status. The team’s experience with Books for a Benefit led them to develop an app that would provide additional structure for language development to students in English as second language programs. Much of the students they work with through Books for a Benefit are immigrants and refugees, so this app would directly impact their academic development. The product is unique because it harnesses access to our volunteers to work directly with students in the community in a personal structure that fosters development. Also, the app is specifically designed to build off a pen pal program used in the organization.

Knowledge Village*
Sid Chhatani, School of Information
Gabriel DellaVecchia, School of Education
Makie DellaVecchia, EMU
Kathleen Easley, School of Education

Knowledge Village is an online community of experience available to students worldwide. Similar to how AirBnB and Lyft provide value and access to resources that people already possess, Knowledge Village will provide a similar platform for the greatest untapped resource: our collective experiences. Professionals, experts, and activists from wide-ranging fields will be available in a searchable database.

Educators in schools, after-school programs, summer programs, and other learning environments will be able to reach out to those speakers and arrange online video visits within the Knowledge Village. Students will be able to interact with speakers in real-time, learning first-hand about the life paths of others. Knowledge Village will assist educators with introducing students to an entire world of possibilities.

Casey Burkard, School of Education
Dave Spallina, Ross School of Business
Parth Valecha, LSA and Ross School of Business
Kate Wilhelmi, School of Education
Daishar Young, School of Education

93% of students in Detroit are not proficient in reading, according to data from the Department of Education’s National center for Educational Statistics. Because of the tumultuous climate in Detroit Public Schools, tutoring organizations are working to support students through after school tutoring; however, they are lacking access to tutors forcing them to turn students away from their programs. LYNC is a web platform designed to connect tutoring organizations to tutors in the Detroit community so more students are able to get the support they need.

Ruben Urbieta, School of Education

Prometeo is a step-by-step interactive tool to explore purpose in life, develop will, and commit to goals using myth images and practical exercises. It’s designed to help clarify goals and develop the will to transform ideas into reality. It can be used for youth empowerment, career advice, and project design.

Rebecca Gadd, School of Education
Ebony Perouse-Harvey, School of Education

Team SPEDucation aims to empower parents and students by creating an interactive reference application that will help them navigate the complex landscape of special education.

The five teams indicated above presented brief “pitches.” These presentations described the problems that the teams are aiming to solve, the research necessary to understand and confront the problems, and the approaches to solving them. Teams then took questions from the judging panel. The panel was composed of experts in the fields of education and business:
• JoAnn Chávez, Vice President, Legal and Chief Tax Officer at DTE Energy
• James Kelly, Founding President and Former CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
• Nichole Pinkard, Associate Professor, Interactive Media Human Computer Interaction, DePaul University School of Design
• Ebony Pope, Associate, Education US at Village Capital
• Richard Sheridan, CEO and Chief Storyteller, Menlo Innovations
• Perry Teicher, Impact Finance Fellow at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

Nichole D. Pinkard, who is also the founder of Digital Youth Network and co-founder of Inquirium LLC and Remix Learning LLC, presented a keynote while the competition winners were being determined. Pinkard’s address focused on the question, how can we rethink learning? Drawing on her experiences as an academic, a businesswoman, and a social entrepreneur, she described the work of innovation, the questions and problems that drive people toward strong solutions, and the process of constant iteration.

And the winner is…

The audience’s choice winner was SPEDucation for their approach to supporting families of children with special educational needs. The third place team, receiving $5,000, was Biblio Care, with their solution to the mental health crisis on this and many other college campuses. The second place team, receiving $7,500, was Books for a Benefit/Sahbi, with their application to enhance language skills and confidence in English language learners. And the grand prize winner, taking home $10,000, was Knowledge Village, for their application to connect students with experts in diverse fields of study.

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