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Innovation Jam Inspires Future Entrepreneurs

TUESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2019 - 8:00 AM All News , Engineering , Business

Ideas flew fast and furious at the 2018 Innovation Jam, an idea incubation event sponsored by Western New England University in partnership with Mount Holyoke College and Smith College.

Held on October 26-28 in downtown Springfield, the weekend event promoted open-ended idea generation, which resulted in five teams developing a diverse array of new product ideas. The three Western New England teams came up with a new type of potato chip, a fire safety helmet, and a problem-solving game app for children. The participating teams pitched their ideas to 18 area VIP entrepreneurs and business professionals, who served as "sharks."

"This is the fourth year we have run the startup weekend and second year cosponsoring with Mount Holyoke College and Smith College," explained Dr. Mary Schoonmaker, assistant professor of marketing and entrepreneurship. "Five teams advanced their innovations toward the early-stage of development. We had sharks helping out the teams on Sunday, which meant all of the teams got lots of great inputs on how to continue to build upon their innovations." Schoonmaker coordinated the event with Dr. Robert Gettens from the College of Engineering and Dr. Harlan Spotts from the College of Business.

First year Entrepreneurship major Grace Buttrick joined a team of Engineering students who wanted to build upon their winning smart project from the College's spring Emerging Engineers Expo and create a viable business. Their project, called the Heat Shield, is a fire helmet to help firefighters assess dangerous situations by warning them of dangerous external and internal temperature and heart rate levels.

"My experience was amazing," says Grace. "I was able to walk into the event and become a part of a group working from the ground up. The four creators of the idea in my group had a physical idea and a prototype created, but no business plan so I was able to work with them to develop a customer demographic and the beginning of a business plan. My group is actually moving forward with continuing to develop this product, in hopes of getting a patent and will be doing an independent study with Professor Schoonmaker in the spring."