Pitches and Posters: An Evening of Ideas

By guest author Vijay Shilpiekandula, Volunteer for MIT IDEAS

Lights, camera, action! The stage was set and the players – MIT teams, armed with posters showcasing their ideas — thrived in the spotlight. The MIT Stata Center saw a flurry of activity on April 30, 2012 as 37 teams led by MIT students pitched their projects to an expert panel of judges at the Poster and Judging session. This year’s teams spearheaded a wide array of projects involving product design, business innovation, and sustainability, all aimed to meet global community needs.

Grooming Innovators

Building the workhorse of innovation is more of marathon than a sprint. Long hours, late night discussions, and last minute debugging of models and plans were the norm. For some, it started from introductory meetings with others in the MIT and Greater Boston community, through multiple IDEAS Generator dinners organized over last fall and this spring. For others, it started from brainstorming with passion in their dorm rooms and department labs.

Over different phases of the competition, the teams wrote project proposals that went through multiple rounds of review and revision. Meanwhile, the teams made connections with the communities that would directly benefit from the team’s idea.

“It started as a small idea, [but it] grew organically,” said Kevin Kung, one of the participants whose team is composed of MIT graduate and undergraduate students, as well as volunteers, mentors, and community partners.

Passion Shows

“This is great evening… for the commitment you [students] show to the community,” said Professor Amy Smith, who had founded the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge 11 years ago and, more recently, the MIT D-Lab. She continued with advice on pitching to the expert panel of judges, a team of 40 formed from MIT administration, government, industry, and academic professionals from all over the world. “Tell [the judges] your idea,” Smith said, emphasizing the need for teams to voice their experience with their projects, how they toyed with the idea, what worked, what did not, and what lay ahead.

As judges and audiences came by to the posters, each team employed a variety of tools ranging from slideshows and prototypes to business models and lessons learnt from actual field trials in the communities they targeted.

“They [judges] asked me very intriguing questions,” said Srikanth Bolla, a student in MIT Sloan, who spent the last few months honing his team’s proposal, and more than a year laying the groundwork that helped his team tackle the judges’ questions. Along with Bolla’s team, which targeted education, training, and sustainability, the IDEAS teams this year came up with innovative solutions to challenges in fields such as water clean water, healthcare, mobile devices and communication, housing and transportation, disaster relief, finance and entrepreneurship, and agriculture and processing.

The Awards Ceremony: a shout out to Innovation and Public Service

We look forward to celebrating the investments that went into this year’s projects. On Thursday May 3, 6-9pm in the MIT Stata Center 32-123, the IDEAS Global Challenge will be announcing the winners and showcasing the student enthusiasm for the world at large. There will be a lecture by guest speaker Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, and a special toast to the students!

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