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Design-a-thon invites student innovators to pitch solutions

College students with innovative ideas, mark your calendars for April 10-11.

That’s when USF St. Petersburg’s Kate Tiedemann College of Business, along with the student chapter of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, is hosting a first-time event: a "design-a-thon” and pitch competition, during which enterprising students will have the chance to solve a real-world problem proposed from the local business community.

One small catch? Innovation Overnight is a 20-hour long event, beginning at 3 pm on April 10 and culminating in an 11 am awards ceremony April 11. Students can leave from midnight to 7 am, but they are also welcome to stay and keep working.

During the marathon brainstorming and building session, students will work through the phases of design thinking to build a functioning prototype that solves a problem sourced from event sponsors (including Jabil Inc, Valpak and the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team).

Games like “Are You Smarter than a Freshman?” and a hula hoop competition will help keep things light during the long hours.

Similar to Startup Weekend events, Innovation Overnight aims to connect members of the community in an informal but inspirational environment. Unlike Startup Weekend events, only students are permitted to participate.

Jessica Chin, co-creator and Chief Innovation Officer for the event, says that Innovation Overnight was developed to help students focus on approaching a problem using “design thinking and a structured thought process.”

Design thinking refers to a process of problem solving through specific phases: “Explore, Ideate, Build and Test,” Alison Watkins, associate dean of the USFSP COB and event co-creator, explained in a news release. It is “particularly useful in terms of defining multifaceted problems and providing innovative, multidimensional solutions to complex business challenges.”

The 20-hour design-a-thon, which mixes play with problem-solving, will include time to pitch a prototype solution to judges, network with potential employers, and learn design thinking tactics from keynote speaker Michelle Royal. Judges will include representatives from several Innovation Overnight sponsors, USFSP, and the TBTF.

Royal, CEO of Royal Innovation Design Group, was selected as keynote speaker “based on her willingness to engage in higher education and her professional expertise,” Chin explains.

Students can sign up for Innovation Overnight as individual participants, but Chin recommends that interested students engage each other on social media before the event to create a team, or contact her to facilitate team creation.

“Innovation Overnight provides an opportunity for students to connect classroom learning to real world situations, demonstrating to the business community that there is high quality talent graduating from area colleges,” TBTF’s Pat Gehant noted in the release. “This program lifts the bar for developing tech talent in the Tampa Bay area.”

The event will be held at USFSP’s University Student Center, 6th Ave S., in Ball Room A. Student pitches, which are open to the public, begin at 9 am on Friday, April 10; an awards ceremony and reception begins at 11 am Saturday, April 11. 

To learn more or to register for Innovation Overnight, click here.  

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer and editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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