‘Internet of Things’ competition challenges student innovation

Mamta Badlani, Staff Writer

A 24-hour design competition entitled Bucknell Innovates 2017: Internet of Things took place beginning at 6 p.m. on Feb. 10 in Academic West 111. 2017 marks the third year Bucknell has hosted this student organized event, which was brought to campus in 2015.

Students must develop an idea, create a budget, and pitch a two-minute project proposal to companies that sponsor the event, all in under 24 hours.

The two companies, PlayPower and Novipod, presented to students a problem they currently face but hope to solve. Teams comprised of three and five students of various majors and class years use their different backgrounds and skills to tackle the problem from unique angles in order to produce a final project that satisfied the companies’ needs.

“My favorite part about organizing the event is that it allows students to build ideas and interact with local businesses in a way that is totally unique compared to their classroom experience. Several teams have had the opportunity to work with and be mentored by different event sponsors, who have been impressed by the amount of determination and grit it takes to ideate, prototype, and pitch, all within 24 hours,” Bucknell Innovates co-founder Alex Breakstone ’17 said.

Playworld Systems—acquired by PlayPower—has sponsored and presented the event since 2015.  As both sponsors are local businesses, the event aims to work with the Lewisburg community.

Caitlin Mahoney ’19, one of the event organizers, was attracted by the interdisciplinary and mock-professional nature of the competition.

“When I first heard about this event on campus, I was intrigued by the opportunity for students to work with local companies in an interdisciplinary and innovative setting. I love that the event promotes creative thinking and collaboration, and [I] decided to get involved,” Mahoney said.

The event, which was previously hosted in Dana Engineering, was moved to Academic West in the hope that it would attract a wider variety of majors.

“Our goal each year is to cater the event to students of all majors. To do this, we have our sponsoring companies propose challenges that can not be solved with a single mindset. We want to encourage collaboration across majors, which more closely follows the way that people work in the real world,” Breakstone said.

This year’s theme, “The Internet of Things,” is a technological movement connecting everyday objects to the internet, encouraging machine to machine interaction. Society’s increasing need for global connectivity and the increased accessibility to broadband internet from decreased costs, has paved the way for new technological opportunities like The Internet of Things. Organizers used this year’s theme to promote their goal of cross major collaboration.

“The ‘Internet of Things’ fits [the goal’s] criteria because of the human interaction element. If the experience of using a device or service is not compelling to the user, then it doesn’t really matter how functional it is. Because Novipod’s business is specifically in designing products and systems for the internet of things, there was a unique opportunity for the student teams to work directly with leaders in the field,” Breakstone said.

Past themes have included “The Great Outdoors” and “Human Centered Design.”

“It’s a great way to collaborate with friends and get real world experience with working with outside companiesWe’re definitely looking to expand the event within the next few years,” Mahoney said.

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