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    Ohio’s Innovators Cup Launches Young Entrepreneurs into the Global Marketplace

    by Erica Molfetto
    January 7, 2016
    Team du Monde of Ohio University are the inaugural winners of the Scripps International Innovators Cup with their solution for combatting sexual assault on college campuses. Photo courtesy of Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.

    By the time Michael Dell, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg had changed the course of computing, all three had dropped out of college.

    What if there were ways to enable students to build innovative businesses within their college classrooms? What if there were outlets in which young minds could work to solve real-world problems while garnering national attention?

    "We need more students around the world to imagine better." - Dr. Michelle Ferrier.

    The Scripps International Innovators Cup is trying to fill that gap.

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    Team DuMonde winning the Scripps International Innovators Cup, 2015.

    Team DuMonde winning the Scripps International Innovators Cup, 2015. Photo courtesy of Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.

    A platform for creativity

    The Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University has created a platform for United States and international students to showcase their creativity and originality through an international media innovation competition. The 2016 Scripps International Innovators Cup provides student teams from the U.S. and around the world with the opportunity to develop innovative ideas and entrepreneurial abilities by solving a media-related challenge. This annual competition follows a similar structure as the prestigious Scripps Innovation Challenge at Ohio University but opens the opportunity for global teams.

    A 2015 Innovators Cup submission from Noelle Vela, a Texas Tech University master’s student, has already gleaned attention from national community leaders, the White House and Congress. With the help of her team, she decided tackle the challenge of engaging Hispanic millennials in the electoral process. Through a Sporkle-like interface, users could answer trivia questions geared toward motivating students to vote.

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    This opportunity has inspired Vela to develop her product and has landed her the LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship, an opportunity that will allow her to work with minority youth to develop video games and apps addressing social issues impacting their communities.

    Her team adviser, Dr. Geoffrey Graybeal, noted her dedication and perseverance throughout the development process and said, “None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the Scripps International Innovators Cup, which was the impetus for tackling this particular issue.”

    Team Du Monde members (from left) Papa Ndiaye, Toluwani Adekunle, Sanusi Shehu and Sana Mahmud head to the stage after winning first place during the Scripps Innovation Challenge .

    Team Du Monde members (from left) Papa Ndiaye, Toluwani Adekunle, Sanusi Shehu and Sana Mahmud head to the stage after winning first place during the Scripps Innovation Challenge. Photo courtesy of Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.

    When students participate, they benefit from this competition by gaining valuable hands-on experience in analyzing and creating a solution to a real-world problem.

    The 2016 Scripps International Innovators Cup asks student teams to submit a short video pitch of their business idea for a media or communications innovation along with a list of possible outcomes. The idea must be commercially viable, either as a revenue-producing idea within an existing organization or as a stand-alone business that could be the next great startup company.

    “We have received very creative and inspiring entries from the institutions that participated in last year’s pilot program,” said Michelle Ferrier, associate dean for innovation, research/creative activities, and graduate studies at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. “We want to elevate student work around media entrepreneurship and build opportunities for students to practice solving problems in or using communications. This international showcase does just that.”

    When Team du Monde of Ohio University won the International Innovators Cup in 2015, they had no idea the impact their idea would generate beyond the $5,000 top prize.

    With a solution addressing sexual assault on college campuses that includes an alert phone app and wearable alarm band, Team du Monde as the winner of Ohio’s Scripps Innovation Challenge, competed against student teams from Texas Tech University, Florida International University, Arizona State University and Southern Methodist University in creating innovative, sustainable solutions to media challenges for the innovators cup.

    Sanusi Shehu, one of four Team du Monde members, recalls how his experience in the Innovators Cup impacted his college experience and, inevitably, changed his life.

    “What I would say to encourage students to participate is that the money is really good, but it’s really about the experience. Working with other people across campus, I learned a lot of things about business and media that I wouldn’t have learned if I had not participated in the competition.”

    Shehu said the team plans to continue to develop their idea.

    “Initially as a team we came together to get the experience, get the money and move on. After we won and because of the great feedback from the judges, we realized we have to move forward with our idea.”

    The Challenges

    The 2016 Innovators Cup Challenges include:

    #1 Exploiting Popular Podcasts
    Challenge: Come up with a way to motivate citizens in a community or geographic region to upload their own podcasts on whatever topic they choose or a range of topics you suggest.

    • Then, engage your listening audience by having them provide feedback so you can determine the most popular podcasts and encourage citizens to produce more of the same.

    #2 Tracking Money in State & Local Election Campaigns
    Challenge: Come up with a product or tool for citizens to access the most up-to-date campaign finance data in state and local elections.

    • The idea should be easy to use and be able to help citizens hold candidates (or backers of ballot initiatives) accountable by allowing them to track the real or potential influence of money in politics.
    • You must show the cost of development and marketing, as well as ways your product or tool can produce revenue. It also must be innovative in providing a service that is distinct from anything that currently exists.

    #3 Engaging First-time Voters
    Challenge: Create a truly innovative product, tool, service or strategy to get potential first-time voters engaged and motivated to register to cast ballots on Election Day 2016.

    • The solution can rely on the full range of technological devices at your disposal, including (but not limited to) apps, digital gaming and social media. Many vehicles exist for getting citizens to register and vote.

    #4 Create a news outlet to serve a “Media Desert”
    Challenge: Create a locally focused news outlet capable of serving a “media desert” by harnessing unpaid contributions from the people who live there.

    • The idea must include a way for the community to pose pressing questions -– both large and small -– to be answered by your volunteer “reporters.”

    #5 Incentivize your audience to help tell stories
    Challenge: Come up with a way to intrigue and motivate a connected audience to better interact with publishing sites.

    • The goal is for the publishing site to increase reader feedback that it can use to deepen audience engagement, and for the person offering the feedback to be meaningfully rewarded for their effort.
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    Photo courtesy of Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.

    Team registration for the competition is due by Monday, February 15, with an entry fee of $250. The entry fee may be sponsored by the college or university of the participating team, but only one team is eligible per school. All team entries are due by Monday, March 28. All participating teams are vying for the top prize of $5,000, as judged by our international team of media professionals and financial industry experts.

    For Ferrier, the competition serves a higher purpose

    “Our ultimate goal is to showcase all the great work happening in media entrepreneurship around the world in our institutions of higher education, and I think we’ve accomplished that goal,” Ferrier said. “This ideation work in media entrepreneurship makes students more marketable for jobs after graduation even if they never pursue their ideas.”

    “We need more students around the world to imagine better.”

    For more insight on video submissions check out:

    Arizona State University: https://vimeo.com/123567661
    Southern Methodist University: https://vimeo.com/123638812
    Texas Tech University: http://youtu.be/d2GjK9S0jx0
    Florida International University: https://youtu.be/Tbvj2kV49rw
    Ohio University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2lwPohVvSU

    Erica Molfetto is a senior at the E.W Scripps School of Journalism studying strategic communication with a concentration in media innovation. After competing in the Scripps Innovation Challenge in 2015, she pursued an internship at DreamIt Ventures in New York City. Currently, Erica serves as an innovation intern for the Scripps College of Communication, as well as a social media/marketing intern for Admit.me, a recent DreamIt Alumni.

    Tagged: competition design entrepreneur experience hands-on innovation

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