Chicago Innovation Chase sponsors Lightning Round

Technews Writer
Sat Sep 28, 2013
The IIT Main Campus was host to an exciting, fast-paced innovation and entrepreneurship challenge this past week wherein students from different disciplines competed to develop a business idea or service in order to be able to leverage it to the market.  The Chicago Innovation Chase was created in 2008 by two Illinois Institute of Technology students, Adam Berg and Gustaf Josefson, who wanted to design a program which would put students through an accelerated business and design experience “like no other”.  The Chase is now organized by Eurekatory, a non-profit company led by Jodi Houlihan, Director of Community Affairs at IIT.

Eurekatory is an organization dedicated to “researching, designing and executing educational curricula focused on innovation, invention and entrepreneurship”.  The Chicago Innovation Chase® is a nationally run intercollegiate innovation tournament focusing on curricula-based educational competitions for students.  Its goal is to unlock talent necessary to succeed in today’s extremely competitive workplace that demands a need for differentiation and diversification.  In the semifinals, held in March this year, teams of students were given two 12-hour blocks to devise an innovative approach with a practical business-minded solution to a real-world, urgent, STEM problem.  They are required to work from scratch—under pressure and with constant deadlines—to develop stages of their ideas with consistent feedback from industry experts and mentors, and to ultimately get the idea ready for launch in the public domain.  Over the course of the competition, the team undertook the same process as a startup company would as it went through various iterations of design, research, prototyping, market management, proposal drafting, and presentations, all with the aim to solve a critical world problem.  The challenge given to the team was centered on the medical concerns of the elderly, and the teams each worked on diabetes, sleep disorders and hip injuries.

The Lightning round of the Chase was held this past weekend on the IIT campus, with teams taking forward their products and services, this time with some additional mentoring and guidance from various experts from the Institute of Design as well as the innovation industry.  Sessions included ones on Design Thinking, Competitive Landscaping, Business Ethics, Brand Development, User Experience Studies, Customer Personas, Analytics, Behavioral Economics, Financial Analysis as well as Funding and Investment Strategies, among other things.  Sleep Better, a service offered by Team Paradigm Shift, aimed to recognize and treat sleep disorders by monitoring activity levels/preferences and promoting high activity during the day.  SugarCube, offered by Team South Side Synergy, aimed to tackle compliance of glucose level check-ups for diabetes mitigation, through the use of social networks.  Hip Alert, the product which won the competition, was created to prevent hip injuries due to falls by enabling efficient communication at the time of fall.

The three day competition provided an excellent opportunity for students to network with industry experts and mentors on various aspects of business development.  It also helped them to immerse themselves in the practical application of many concepts we may or may not learn in class, but that are crucial to develop for the professional workspace. One of the most exciting sessions was when students were required to go around the city to strategically placed investors, and pitch their products to them in the hopes of securing funding.  The event ended with a team presentation for constructive feedback from the esteemed judges.  The logistics of the event ran extremely smoothly, with the participants very well cared for, especially in terms of meals and nourishment provided.
The Idea Shop (Jeremy Alexis & Rima Kuprys), Community Affairs, University Technology park (Cassidy Turley) and WISER (Dr. Mohammad Shahidehpour) were among the many IIT entities who graciously offered space in some of the best conference rooms located on campus for the competition.  External acknowledgements include those due to representatives from BP, Walgreens, GravityTank, Spar’d, Grubhub, Wrigley Mars, the IIT Institute of Design and Doblin; among many others.  The event also would not have been possible without the generous initial funding of Professors Keith Bowman (MMAE) and Vince Turitto (BME) who also provided the research problem for the teams to work on.  It is rare to find such opportunities as a student to be able to experience a real world project; the participants would definitely recommend the experience to any student even remotely interested in learning how critical thinking and innovation processes work in the real world.
Appears in
2013 - Fall - Issue 5