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Charger Startup Weekend Inspires Innovation, Imagination, and Impact
Students in each of the University’s colleges and schools pitched solutions to important real-world problems, discovering creative solutions and the importance of teamwork.
November 18, 2019
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Yu-Ting Chiu ’20 MBA is concerned about the environment. Endeavoring to help address the amount of waste caused by disposable cups, she and her teammates developed the concept for "JoeDough," an innovative payment system they hope will motivate people to bring their own cups when buying a drink instead of using disposable cups.
As part of their proposal, Chiu and her team proposed incorporating technology into cups or cup sleeves that would connect to an app, ensuring a faster payment process for beverages and a way to measure consumers’ green efforts. The idea earned them a first-place finish in the University’s Charger Startup Weekend.
"The most important thing I learned from Charger Startup Weekend is the value of teamwork," said Chiu. "We speak different languages and have diverse backgrounds, but we still worked well together because we have the same business acumen. My teammates inspired me to think outside of the box."
Chiu and her teammates were among the nearly three dozen students representing majors from across the University who participated in Charger Startup Weekend. The students worked together to identify and solve problems related to water, food, and energy, and they also engaged in collaborative activities, networked, and worked with mentors.
"Charger Startup Weekend allowed interdisciplinary student teams represented by all of the University’s colleges and schools to experience firsthand the process associated with developing a business idea by using the design thinking methodology," said Brian Marks, J.D., Ph.D., executive director of the University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, referring to a unique problem-solving approach that encourages individuals to reframe challenges in ways that focus on what is most important for the user.
"The most important thing I learned from Charger Startup Weekend is the value of teamwork. We speak different languages and have diverse backgrounds, but we still worked well together because we have the same business acumen. My teammates inspired me to think outside of the box."Yu-Ting Chiu '20
"This year, a new feature was added to the program as student mentors worked with our entrepreneurial mentors," continued Marks. "This addition reflects the growth in our entrepreneurial program and courses offered at the University, and the furthering of our University-wide focus on instilling an innovative mindset in all of our students."
Mary Landsfield, a financial services representative at Barnum Financial Group and a member of the College of Business’s Advisory Board, served as one of the judges, and she was impressed by the students’ work.
"I enjoyed Charger Startup Weekend immensely, and I think the students did a fine job," she said. "The students’ work was innovative and sought to address larger world issues."
The pitches included topics such as cost-effective travel and redesigning plastic bottles.
Disha Sawhney ’21 MHA and her teammates wanted to find a way to "recycle" unused food at restaurants in order to prevent it from ending up in a landfill, while helping to nourish those who don’t have enough to eat. Drawing inspiration from local food trucks, the group pitched pursuing partnerships with restaurants willing to donate food, identifying areas in which people do not get enough food, and using food trucks as "trucktaurants" to provide them with food.
"Our target audience was India, mainly because it’s a developing country," she said. "We learned a lot from Charger Startup Weekend, especially because we had such good mentors who were amazing critics. They always motivated us to think deeper. As an international student, I found this ‘out of the box’ thinking to be invaluable."