Voinovich School students reach finalist stage in fifth annual Scripps Innovation Challenge

Emily Delaney
February 1, 2017

Four student teams — including one with two students from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs — have been named finalists in this year’s Scripps Innovation Challenge (SIC). The finalists will compete for a $13,000 prize pot in the annual competition to develop innovative solutions to media and communication industry challenges.

This year’s finalists are:

  • Green Mappers
    Pashtun Mohammad, Russ College of Engineering and Technology
    Rachel Martin, Honors Tutorial College/Voinovich School Environmental Studies
    Linsey Edmunds, Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs
  • Team Bridging
    Zulfia Zaher, Scripps College of Communication
    Chetra Chap, Scripps College of Communication
    Arif Ahmed, Russ College of Engineering and Technology
  • Storytellers
    Oluwabukola (Bukky) Shaba, Global Affairs and International Studies
    Ifeoluwa Adedeji, Global Affairs and International Studies
    Alena Klimas, College of Arts and Sciences, Global Affairs and International Studies
  • The Players
    Inna Tsyrlin, College of Fine Arts
    Trip Venturella, College of Fine Arts
    Kathrine Varge, College of Fine Arts

Edmunds, a first-year master of science in Environmental Studies student at the Voinovich School, is excited about the difficulties this project has shown her team, The Green Mappers, so far. “Our team is really diverse. Hashim is a PhD candidate in engineering and Rachel is a freshman in the HTC school,” she said. “It’s been really fun working through our ideas and group dynamics.”

Teams tackled one of the six industry challenges in this year’s contest. Two finalist teams, including the Green Mappers, addressed a challenge posed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an influential environmental group seeking innovative ways to increase its fundraising.

“We have the opportunity, if we out-compete the other group, to present our idea to the NRDC,” Edmunds said. “The NRDC would then pay for our travel to Washington or New York, so that is really awesome. Just getting the chance to meet with the NRDC would be incredible. They do such amazing work.”

The finalists will compete for $13,000 in prizes on March 27 – known as “Pitch Day” – when they will present their ideas before a live audience and a judging panel of industry professionals in a format that resembles TV’s popular “Shark Tank” program.

At stake: a $7,000 first prize, $2,500 second prize, two $1,000 prizes for honorable mentions and a $1,500 diversity-enhancement prize pool for the team or teams whose entries best address underserved and underrepresented audiences.

“We were again delighted by the quality of the top entries, ” Jean Marie Cackowski-Campbell, SIC executive coordinator, said.  “This year promises to be another edge-of-your-seat event. Students and faculty who attend will have the opportunity to see how teams came up with innovation solutions to real-world, in the trenches problems.”

“Making it into the final four is a huge achievement,” added Andy Alexander, the SIC’s director who is an executive in residence at both the Scripps College of Communication and the Voinovich School. “But even for those whose entries fell short, it was a valuable learning experience.”

Making it to Pitch Day is an accomplishment in itself. The 13 teams submitted entries that required a large amount of research, market analysis, brainstorming, and a heavy dose of creativity. This year, in addition to the finalist prizes, each team with the top 10 entries also received $500.

Among the top 10 entries were The Trail-Blazers, a team that focused on achieving food transparency for consumers. Thuy Ho, a current master of science in Environmental Studies student at the Voinovich School, was a part of the team. “The biggest takeaway from this challenge was that we dared to think big and believed that the idea of a social movement toward better business behaviors would be appreciated and considered for specific actions in the future," said Thuy.

From its inception, a goal of the Innovation Challenge has been to attract entries from throughout Ohio University, regardless of the majors of student contestants. That occurred again this year, with participants from the Scripps College of Communication, College of Fine Arts, Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Global Affairs and International Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, Honors Tutorial College, College of Business, and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

Judge Ken Klein, executive vice president of the Washington DC-based Outdoor Advertising Association of America, praised the entries and said one finalist, in particular, was “impressive.”

Edmunds’ teammate Mohammad Hashim Pashtun said that between now and Pitch Day, the Green Mappers will “fine-tune the details of our proposals, practice the presentation and look for feedback and critique to help us prepare. Also, we will contact some faculty and experts in this field for help.”

The biggest takeaway from the project for Edmunds so far has been the opportunity to look at things from the perspective of the NRDC. “When you’re trying to increase donations in this political climate, your work is even more important,” she said.

Pitch Day will be held on Monday, March 27 at 3 p.m. in Walter Hall Rotunda. The event is free and open to the public.

About the Scripps Innovation Challenge

The Scripps Innovation Challenge is a university-wide competition at Ohio University, backed by the Scripps College of Communication and the Scripps Howard Foundation. It gives OHIO students a unique opportunity to create innovative solutions to real-world communication and media problems. Scripps Innovation Challenge is now in its fifth year.

For more information on the Scripps Innovation Challenge, please visit https://www.ohio.edu/scrippscollege/innovationchallenge/.

* This article was originally posted on the Scripps College of Communication website and can be found at https://www.ohio.edu/scrippscollege/newsevents/news-story.cfm?newsItem=FE80F635-5056-A874-1D51B095022D9AB3.