The Charger Blog

Students Reflect on 24-Hour Innovation Sprint Experience

The University’s 24-Hour Innovation Sprint event enabled more than 100 students to collaborate as they developed solutions to real-world challenges in Connecticut, including school and fire safety, and then pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

March 4, 2022

Introduction by Stephanie Gillespie, Ph.D., associate dean, Tagliatela College of Engineering

The event’s winning team, New Haven Fire Solutions.
The event’s winning team, New Haven Fire Solutions.

What can you accomplish in 24 hours? Fellow faculty member Brian Marks, Ph.D., J.D., senior lecturer and executive director of the University’s entrepreneurship and innovation program, and I posed this question to students as part of the Spring 2022 24-Hour Innovation Sprint event.

Students were introduced to six challenges reported by news outlets in Connecticut since the start of the year, ranging from the increased risk of house fires due to winter heating elements to school safety. This event uses the design thinking methodology, emphasizing customer and/or stakeholder research, engagement, and feedback as a part of solving a problem.

More than 100 students from the BUSA 1000 Introduction to Business and Entrepreneurship and the EASC 1107 Introduction to Engineering courses came together for the event, and we encouraged students to collaborate with new peers to form groups. Teams spent Friday evening exploring the problem, and then spent Saturday brainstorming and refining solutions to create a two-minute video pitch.

Throughout the event, teams received feedback at various stages from faculty, experienced students, and industry mentors. While the event continues to be held virtually, faculty sponsors look forward to eventually hosting this event in-person again, as it has been held in the past.

This semester’s winning team, New Haven Fire Solutions, included Timothy Alday ’23, a marketing major; Amber Lagoja ’24, a psychology major; Derick Meza ’25, an electrical engineering major; Ricardo Morgado ’24, a mechanical engineering major; Boudounoma Ouedraogo ’25, a business management major; and Amiel Perez-Wilson ’22, a criminal justice major.

Their pitch identified why portable heaters are common causes of house fires and property damage during the winter, and the students proposed a smart heater with an app that regulates its own temperature and sends out alerts if it detects overheating with automatic-shutdown modes.

Two participants, including one of the student mentors, reflected on the experience and what they learned.

Gabby Picon ’25

The 24-Hour Innovation Sprint gives new business and engineering students a chance to collaborate with others, examine issues, and share their bright, new ideas. As a participant at last fall’s event and a recent mentor at this winter’s event, I thoroughly enjoyed contributing to inventive solutions and analyzing ideas in a short and highly-rewarding time period.

I was interested in being a mentor for the event because I remember the mentors at my event last fall being helpful, but, I felt I could do even more. I focused on giving as much productive and positive feedback as possible to the participants.

Image of Gabby Picon ’25.
Gabby Picon ’25.

I hopped between Zoom rooms, asking if there were any questions, answering participants’ inquiries, and further facilitating interesting and experimental conversations. I also jumpstarted additional conversations revolving around the pitches, giving feedback on the first pitch videos, and helping participants prepare visual elements for their next round.

Having an extremely limited number of prompts allowed for a quick and seamless transition from learning about the design thinking process to collaborating and finding solutions to important problems.

The car crash dilemma presented students with a variety of routes to find compelling answers and resolutions. These presentations were the most interesting to watch and learn about. Students found a variety of statistics and facts to present to the judges, and, ultimately, all of the problems and solutions brought thought-provoking conversations to the groups, which was the goal of the sprint in general.

Being a mentor also allowed me to reflect on my interpersonal communication skills, build meaningful connections with others, and discover societal problems that needed to be fixed. As a business management major at the University, I found that these collaborations – as both a participant in and mentor for the 24-Hour Innovation Sprint - pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to consider what sector of the business field I want to enter after college. It also provided me the skills necessary to work well with others in a group setting, and the experience allowed me to apply design thinking into my everyday and academic lives.

Erjona Ymeri ’24

I felt excited, but also nervous, while attending this event because it was the first time I ever did something like this with more than 100 other students. I really liked the topics we were given to pick from to work on as a team. The topics were relatable, and something good to talk about.

Image of Erjona Ymeri ’24.
Erjona Ymeri ’24.

I really liked the team I was part of, and we all got to know each other, had a lot of great conversations, and worked as a team. Basically, we became friends, and it was an awesome experience overall. We had fun, and working on these topics was very interesting.

I’m proud of my team, and, as we worked together, it felt like we had known each other for years. The skills I gained include how to work as part of a team, since we would listen to each other as we discussed how to problem solve. I also developed my time management skills.

I’m very proud of what my teammates and I accomplished. It made me feel very comfortable to know that I am capable of working as part of a team and that we can accomplish what we needed to do. I feel prepared for the future. I enjoyed this 24-Hour Innovation Sprint event, as it was an awesome experience.

Gabby Picon ’25 and Erjona Ymeri ’24 are business management majors at the University.