Kent State Students Come Together to Invent for the Planet
While many students use their weekends to work or catch up on sleep or homework, a dozen Kent State students spent the weekend of February 15-17 participating in a global “virtual hackathon” called Invent for the Planet (IFTP). The 48-hour competitive event grew from an engineering-focused program from Texas A&M University called Aggies Invent, which evolved into a global design challenge. Teams are formed at the beginning of the weekend event and then use the time to research and plan a solution for a world problem, based on a variety of given “needs statements.”
Sixteen need statements were given to teams, encompassing problems like fatal road accidents, malaria treatment compliance, connecting the world, and virtual reality. Each of the 37 colleges and universities across the globe, from nearly every continent and 15 time zones, hosted their own local teams who were able to connect with others around the world via live chat sessions throughout the weekend. The Kent State team who took local top honors, composed of Jillian Eddy (freshman, Engineering Technology) and Apoorva Jain (sophomore, Fashion Design), created an app for staff and residents of independent living facilities to communicate information like residents’ exact location in case of an emergency as well as community-building activities.
At Kent State, three teams formed around their interest in the topics presented, all working together and in their separate teams, laughing, learning, networking, and eating. Much of the research, discussions, and prototyping happened around campus: in the “hub” of the event at the College of Aeronautics and Engineering, university makerspaces at Student Multimedia Services and Spark (who helped out by staying open later than normal), or even from dorm rooms and apartments. The other teams were made up of Kelly Deak (senior, Architecture), Nick Kubiez (freshman, Architecture), and David Carlyn (senior, Computer Science); and Amrth Ashok Shenava (sophomore, Computer Science), Ishan Krishna Maitra (freshman, Computer Science), Daniel Issac (sophomore, Mechanical Engineering Tech), and Godwin Shitta (freshman, Aerospace Engineering).
Julie Messing, executive director of LaunchNET Kent State, met the Invent for the Planet organizers at a VentureWell conference last year and, during their a conversation, drew parallels with events that Kent State hosts, such as Mission:Life and the Fashion/Tech Hackathon. Messing, who also served as one of the key mentors, observed that “the event was very well-organized. I learned some things that we would like to use in our events going forward—they had a very good mentor training and handbook, as well as short stat reports and times for teams to use them, which helped students communicate with the mentors about what they needed help with.”
Jackie Ruller, Assistant Dean in the College of Aeronautics and Engineering (CAE), who was a key coordinator for the weekend event, reflected that “it was good to be able to bring together interdisciplinary teams from across the university. Students from computer science, engineering, fashion, and architecture, diverse in gender and background, participated, learned and had fun.”
Beyond the collaboration with Texas A&M and the other schools that participated, within Kent State there was a wide variety of people who came together to support the event. Mentors included Yanhai Du, Associate Professor in CAE; Mark Ashmore, Lead IT User Support Analyst (CAE); Tom Long, Assistant Professor (CAE), JR Campbell, director of the Design Innovation Initiative, and Julie Messing. Faculty, staff judges and volunteers from from CAE and LaunchNET, the Design Innovation Initiative, as well as Information Technologies and The Fashion School rounded out the group.
The first-place winners from each school submitted a video pitch to go head-to-head in a semifinal judging round, before a “Global Top Five” competition at Texas A&M on April 23-24, 2019.