Annual Innovation Challenge teaches students problem-solving skills

NDSU Research and Technology Park
Last year’s Entrepreneurship Track winners Korie DeBardlabon and Ashlin Hickman

What students can gain from getting involved in the Innovation Challenge

Participating in school organizations gives students a chance to prepare themselves for future success. Joining clubs, volunteering or signing up for events and getting involved with different types of student organizations on campus are some of the ways students can educate themselves and use new experiences to improve their skills.

North Dakota State University offers multiple opportunities for students who are interested in advancing their skills and knowledge. On campus, NDSU has more than 250 student organizations and an environment that encourages students to pursue their passions.

The Innovation Challenge is an annual event held on NDSU’s campus that allows high school, undergraduate and graduate students from all over the nation to express and learn skills of creativity, problem-solving, public speaking and collaboration. Even though Covid-19 has become an obstacle for planning the 2020 event, organizers have made it possible for students to participate online completely.

The challenge starts off with boot camps held on Oct. 6, Oct. 20 and Nov. 17 where students can receive help from professionals and strengthen their innovation. Students will showcase their final project virtually on Oct. 29 to advance to the finals that take place on Nov. 19, North Dakota Innovation day.

“The innovation challenge really helps students to learn and better solve problems and find opportunities which will eventually help them be better at their jobs,” Scott Meyer, the Ozbun Executive Director of Entrepreneurship, said. “But also find what they want to do with their lives.”

The challenge consists of three different tracks: the Social Impact Track, the Graduate Research track and the Entrepreneurship track.

The Social Impact Track is for anyone that has a nonprofit or do-good idea for community, regional or world issues. Students with years of research and applicable, in-depth ideas that relate to their thesis would participate in the Graduate Research Track. And finally, the Entrepreneurship Track is for any business or innovation idea that is unrelated to the items in the Graduate Research Track.

“We want people to know that innovation can come in a lot of different forms,” Meyer said. “So, it might be a business idea, improving something that already exists, a social enterprise or nonprofit.”

Students of all majors are allowed to participate in the Innovation Challenge. In past years, business and engineering majors have made up over half of the students in the competition.

“Entrepreneurship is an essential skill. Being able to solve problems is important whether you are starting your own company or working for someone,”

– Scott Meyer, Ozbun Executive Director of Entrepreneurship.

If students need to improve their idea or do not have an idea of their own, they can sign up for the boot camps that are offered through the event, or they can be put into a team where their skills are needed.

“Participating in the innovation challenge forced our team to put together a pitch for our product,” Laura Friedmann, a junior mechanical engineering major, said. “It made us truly think about who we are and what we wanted to do.”

The Innovation Challenge is a great opportunity for students who want to take their ideas and knowledge to the next level. Whether it’s an idea that a student wants to innovate on their own or an idea that a group of students works on together, the experience and skills gained through participating in the challenge will benefit their future careers or lives.

“Entrepreneurship is an essential skill,” Meyer said. “Being able to solve problems is important whether you are starting your own company or working for someone.”

For more information on the Innovation Challenge, students can visit Applications to participate are due by Oct. 27.

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