The Charger Blog

First-Year Students Reflect on What They Learned Participating in University’s Immersive 24-Hour Innovation Sprint

The interdisciplinary event enabled more than 160 students to immerse themselves in research, problem solving, and collaboration as they worked to propose solutions to real-world challenges and pitched their ideas to the University community.

October 6, 2021

By Claudia Arévalo ’25, Emily Sanatar ’25, and Aidan Stoner ’25

Image of the winning team's zoom prersentation.
More than 160 students took part in the University’s virtual 24-Hour Innovation Sprint event.

More than 160 students recently took part in the University’s 24-Hour Innovation Sprint event, which was held via Zoom. Students from BUSA 1000, the Introduction to Business and Entrepreneurship course, and EASC 1107, the Introduction to Engineering course, gathered for an immersive and intense design sprint that took place over the course of only 24 hours.

Dr. Brian Marks, executive director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, and Dr. Stephanie Gillespie, associate dean for the Tagliatela College of Engineering (TCoE) and course coordinator for the Introduction to Engineering class, have been partnering together for the last two years to create innovative hands-on learning experiences. They are passionate about providing opportunities for students to dive into design thinking methodology by researching and proposing solutions to problems.

Earlier versions of the 24-Hour Innovation Sprint, Charger Startup Weekend, spanned a full weekend. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the event pivoted to the condensed sprint, spanning Friday and Saturday, and held virtually.

The event included 15 faculty and staff mentors, 15 student mentors, members of the TCoE and Pompea College of Business, along with members of the University’s Board of Governors who provided encouragement and support. The participants were arranged into more than 30 teams to examine a wide range of issues from transportation to the concerns about retail store losses due to the increase in online shopping. Students selected a problem statement and conducted interviews or did background research to validate the problem. They then brainstormed possible solutions and, ultimately, decided on one to explore in depth to present in a two-minute pitch.

Claudia Arévalo ’25

My initial reaction to hearing about the 24-Hour Innovation Sprint was to ask questions to be able to learn exactly what we were going to be working on. Who would my group partners be? What sort of problems are we going to be working on? When my professor, Dr. Yoon, intentionally did not provide any elaborate answers so as to keep it a surprise, I became slightly nervous about what to expect and wondered if it would be difficult. But at the same time, I was excited for a challenge.

I specifically chose the climate change problem because of my environmental science background. My interest in climate change is the reason I earned my A.S. in environmental science and toxicology. I am very passionate about this topic and felt I had something to contribute to the group. I was also curious about what other students had in mind pertaining to this topic.

I enjoyed interacting with my team during the event, and I encouraged each individual to introduce themselves and talk about their background, so I could start assessing how each member could use their strengths to contribute to the project. It was great to hear from them and their ideas. Once we broke the ice, ideas started flying back and forth.

I listened carefully to what the mentors had to say. I viewed them as the customer, and I internalized what they would like to see and what they loved about the presentation. When receiving feedback, it is important to listen carefully, so you know which direction you need to take in the next phase of planning and/or prototyping. Their feedback played a defining role in what our final prototype looked like.

The most rewarding aspect of this event was the experience itself. It taught me to think outside the box. We can be quick to jump to a solution to a problem when in all actuality, there are many solutions to a given problem. It is important to listen to what others have to say and not to believe you are the only one who has a wonderful idea. This is something I will take with me throughout my time at the University and in my career.

I worked with some great minds in the 24-Hour Innovation Sprint and I would do it all over again if I had the chance. I had an amazing time and I wish the best of luck to all future students participating in this event.

Image of the runner up team's zoom prersentation.
Aidan Stoner ’25 and his teammates explored alternatives to fossil fuels.
Emily Sanatar ’25

Going into the 24-Hour Innovation Sprint event, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have never taken a class that focused on entrepreneurship and design-thinking, but I believe what I have learned in BUSA 1000 prepared me very well for the event. It was held at the perfect time in the semester because I was able to use what I learned and apply it to my business plan that I will be working on in class.

When we were introduced to the 15 challenges that we would eventually come up with a solution for, I tried to pick the issues I felt that I could relate to the most. When I heard the “Where’s Waldo” prompt, I thought that was perfect for me. I worked at a doggy daycare this summer, and we had an overflow of “COVID dogs.” It was very apparent that pet parents were struggling to figure out how to take care of them while going back to work. My experience working with dogs helped my team come up with a solid problem statement. We wanted to focus on the fact that dogs and young puppies need to be entertained throughout the day, or their separation anxiety can cause them to make a mess of the house.

When working as a team, we felt very strongly about the pitch that we came up with. When the mentors came in to give us feedback, it only increased our confidence. They thought our idea was great, and their constructive criticism made our pitch even stronger. Getting feedback was helpful because it was reassuring that we were on the right track.

My team worked really well together, and I feel we did a great job by supporting all the ideas we came up with, instead of judging each other. That is key in the design-thinking process, and I believe my group did that perfectly.

Aidan Stoner ’25

Going into the 24-Hour Innovation Sprint, I was nervous, mostly because I didn't know what to expect from it. I choose my specific problem statement because it was something I had a little bit of background knowledge in, and I thought that would come in handy.

At the virtual event, everyone was very friendly. My teammates and I were able to get to know each other a little throughout the sprint. It also didn't take us much time to get talking and to start working.

The mentor feedback we received was very helpful. It allowed us to make sure we were headed in the right direction and that we had everything we needed. The most rewarding part of this event was when my team saw what we had created. After working hard for the duration of the event, we were able to put something together that we were proud of. In the end, we performed better than we thought we would, which was a big boost to our confidence.

Claudia Arévalo ’25 is a chemical engineering major, Emily Sanatar ’25 is an accounting major, and Aidan Stoner ’25 is an electrical engineering major at the University of New Haven.