Big ideas aren’t the only thing that most of the top teams competing in the 2007 Ideas Challenge at Texas A&M University have in common. More that 75 percent of the contest’s semifinalists are currently enrolled, or have taken, the Department of Architecture’s ENDS 101 “Design Process” class taught by architecture professors Rodney Hill and Jorge Vanegas.
The sixth annual Ideas Challenge, which wraps up Wednesday, May 2 with final presentations at the Wehner Building on the Texas A&M campus, is a showcase for student ideas that promise to revolutionize the way people interact with the world. In the competition, sponsored by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, student teams pitch ideas that include everything from new technologies to problem-solving concepts. In five-minute presentations, the students have to sell their idea, demonstrate its viability and identify a market for it to a panel of more than 100 expert business and venture capitalist.
This year, 20 teams of students who are currently enrolled in the ENDS 101 Design Process class are among the 34 semifinalists presenting at the May 2 contest finale. Because six members of the 14 remaining semifinal teams had previously completed the course, Hill notes that more than 75 percent of the 2007 Idea Challenge semifinal teams include ENDS 101 initiates.
“Design thinking pays off,” said Hill. “Our students’ success in the Ideas Challenge and other competitions demonstrates why several business schools around the country have hired professors out of design schools to teach design thinking to their MBA programs.”
And this is not the first year design process students have dominated the Ideas Challenge. In last year’s competition, ENDS 101 students accounted for 26 of the 40 best ideas in the semifinals, with another five former design process students also making the cut. Of those, one team placed second and five student goups were among the eight third-place finishers.
Hill says the ENDS 101 students are required to enter a variety of design, invention and creativity competitions each semester. The classes tend to be split evenly among gender, with business, biotech and engineering majors making up the majority of the students. At the beginning of the semester, he carefully sorts the class into competition teams that include a mix of majors and genders.
“Research,” he said, “has shown that the more diverse the groups in both disciplines and gender, the richer the solutions.”
At the daylong May 2 Idea Challenge finals, judges will select the top 10 business ideas awarding $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place, and eight third place awards for $1,000 each.
In a related story, Hill reports that his and Vanegas’ ENDS 101 students recently swept the April 19 Great Aggie Invention Contest, garnering all of the awards, including the Aggie Inventor of 2007.
The annual competition is sponsored by the Institute of Applied Creativity and the American Creativity Association Texas A&M Student Chapter. The winners were chosen from 350 entries, which were initially narrowed down to 11 semi-finalists — all from the Ends 101 classes.
Earlier this month, a team of six Texas A&M students from Hill’s ENDS 101 class won three contest categories in the National EntrepreneurshipWeek USA Challenge, a national competition that tasks students to take a common everyday object and create as much value as possible.
The student’s entry, “Wrap It Up” self-adhesive wrapping paper, placed first in the “most money generated,” “degree of entertainment” and “degree of risk taken” categories. Theirs was one of more than 200 submissions from students across the country entered in the contest that required participants to stretch their entrepreneurial muscle and create a unique, valuable service or product made with Post-it® Notes.
The student teams had only one week to come up with their ideas and presentations and submit digital slides or a three-minute video to the contest Web site. The teams were judged on the value they created and defined in the short period of time.