(From left) Members of the first-place team, Mentorship in Appalachia Program, Bharbi Hazarika, Jessica Hill and Mohammad Hashim Pashtun and Dean Scott Titsworth pose for a photo April 9 at the sixth annual Scripps Innovation Challenge Pitch Day.

(From left) Members of the first-place team, Mentorship in Appalachia Program, Bharbi Hazarika, Jessica Hill and Mohammad Hashim Pashtun and Dean Scott Titsworth pose for a photo April 9 at the sixth annual Scripps Innovation Challenge Pitch Day.

Photographer: Jorge Castillo Castro

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Student teams present to AT&T at Scripps Innovation Challenge Pitch Day


On Monday, April 9, two teams gave their pitch to three judges for the sixth annual Scripps Innovation Challenge Pitch Day finale.

The Scripps Innovation Challenge, open to all students at Ohio University, is an opportunity for students to work collaboratively across programs to develop and pitch an innovative solution to one of the many real-world media and communication challenges presented by a professional organization. 

This year’s challenge partner, AT&T, asked students to find ways to improve high school graduation rates in Appalachia. Students worked in teams to create an innovative solution in the form of a strategy, tool or product.

Mentorship in Appalachia Program (MAP) Team won the first-place prize of $1,500 after pitching their idea of an interactive mentorship website. The team presented a personalized and locally focused website that would be able to match Appalachia high school students with mentors in their area. Mentees would be able to be matched with mentors who are first-generation college students, working professionals, and alumni and current students from Appalachian Ohio. Mentors would then guide their mentees in a series of objectives, such as how to build a resume, discuss their career goals, assist them with their higher education search, and help with their scholarship search. 

The MAP team includes Mohammad Hashim Pashtun, a doctoral engineering student, and Jessica Hill and Bharbi Hazarika, both students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. 

“While thinking about our idea, we considered three main things: feasibility, making it financially sustainable; practicality, making it implementable; and how we can make it long lasting and provide an innovative approach to this issue,” said Mohammad Hashim Pashtun. “The sense of giving back to the community was also a driving force for us.” 

The Pitch Day finale resembled the popular “Shark Tank” show. Teams were given 10 minutes to pitch their ideas to three industry judges. This year’s judges included BJ Smith, director of external affairs, AT&T Ohio; Renée Middleton, dean, Patton College of Education; and Tom Hodson, director, WOUB Public Media. After teams presented, judges had seven minutes to ask the teams questions about their idea. 

The team who won the second-place prize of $750 was the App for App Team. The team pitched their idea for Appalachia for High Education, an online resource for Appalachia students who are interested in pursuing higher education. The website would offer how-to videos on applying for financial aid, video tours of colleges and universities, an internet forum, and other academic resources. 

The App for App team includes Laila Riaz and Margaret Campbell, both students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. 

“We originally started off trying to find someone that we could send into the Appalachian high schools, but then we discovered that it would just be more efficient to find a way that students could have a one-stop place to find all the resources they needed,” said Margaret Campbell. “The website would also make it so the schools could use it as a more flexible resource.” 

For more information, visit the Scripps Innovation Challenge website. The Scripps Innovation Challenge can also be found on Twitter