Ohio University

Voinovich School students take second place in fifth annual Scripps Innovation Challenge

After months of research, planning and collaboration, the Scripps Innovation Challenge has come to an end. Four teams – including one with two students from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs – participated in the final Pitch Day on March 28.

Both the first- and second-place teams addressed a problem for the National Resources Defense Council, posed specifically for the competition. The NRDC wanted an innovative, effective way to increase donations. First-place team Players, comprising three first-year graduate students in playwriting in the College of Fine Arts, pitched an online pledge drive featuring cute animal videos, culminating in a live TV event with celebrities representing the most popular animals. The animal garnering the most donations would become the new face of the NRDC.

The second-place winner, The Green Mappers, developed an interactive customizable map for the NRDC which highlights the organization’s ongoing projects in communities across the globe and allows users to donate directly toward specific projects. Users can subscribe to areas of the map that match their interests and seek out projects that speak to them.

“You can learn – all in one place, one map – a little bit about the project, the work they’re doing, you can see pictures, and then you can donate, share and follow,” said Edmunds, a first-year graduate student in Environmental Studies at the Voinovich School. The team’s other two members were Rachel Martin, a freshman in the Honors Tutorial College, and Mohammad Hashim Pashtun, a doctoral candidate in the Russ College of Engineering. The trio won $2,500 for its work.

Bridging, a team comprising two students in the Scripps College of Communication and one from the Russ College, received an Honorable Mention and the People’s Choice Award. Honorable Mention also went to Storytellers, a team of three students in Global Affairs and International Studies.

As a step forward in the development of their project, the Green Mappers went on to pitch their concept and take first place at the Student Expo on April 6. The Expo allowed them to present their idea in front of another panel of judges and discuss the possibility of continuing their work. Edmunds said these steps could include obtaining a lawyer to define the parameters of their intellectual property.

“There’s a lot of questions still, like how this would be made available,” said Edmunds.

The most challenging aspect of the Scripps competition was the first month of meetings in which the team would bounce ideas back and forth endlessly, Edmunds said. In the end, they found that taking small bites of information from a variety of sources is what made theirs feasible, realistic and innovative.

“You put a lot of effort and work into it so it was really cool to have that validation. And you know, being handed a giant check is always exciting,” Edmunds said.