The entrepreneurial spirit was on full display at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) on November 12, as student teams competed for the chance to win $5,000 by pitching an innovative solution to a real-world business challenge, in the first-ever Social Innovation Hackathon hosted by USG’s Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership

The event was open to students from all academic programs on the USG campus. Three teams of students were formed and competed for a chance to win the $5,000 prize by pitching their solutions to the challenge presented by KUSI Global, Inc. (KUSI), a hub for transformational leadership training and initiatives that promotes global connections and conscious cultures. KUSI supports today’s leaders and prepares tomorrow’s innovators to foster connected cultures that improve the condition of humanity. 

KUSI’s President of Learning Services and Strategy, Casey Wilson, kicked off the event with a question: “How can we increase visibility and accountability across the organization?"

Participants were then tasked with answering and presenting their ideas to Wilson.  After a round of lightning pitches, students formed teams around the best ideas to develop a solution in just a couple of hours.

Within the two hours, each of the teams underwent a design sprint to come up with an idea, a prototype, and a slide deck. Throughout the day, the teams received mini-lectures from Entrepreneurship Lab Director Marc Steren and Program Manager Katherine Zmoda on a variety of topics, including: Brainstorming Basics, How to Create a Prototype, and Creating an Effective Pitch Deck. 

Once the teams had finalized their pitch presentations, Wilson arrived on site at the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering building to watch and judge the three teams’ pitches. While all three teams had creative and innovative solutions, only one team could be named the winner of the competition. Team #3 brought home the grand prize for their idea of using a referral network of Venture Capital and Equity Firms to multiply KUSI’s reach and bring in new clients.

The Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership congratulates the following students from the winning team, and each offered their thoughts on the experience:

Masahiro Suzuki, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Marketing

“It was a great team collaborative effort and we really learned some skills in consulting”

Brayden Brinson, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Accounting

“It was a good way to build relationships… and collaborate and really succeed on a project.”

Dani Hé, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Business Management

“It is very interactive and very intense, and I didn’t know these two gentlemen (teammates) ahead of time so it’s a collaborative environment” 

The Social Innovation Hackathon was a challenging program that pushed the students, regardless of academic background, to work together and create an innovative solution to a real world business problem. The students gained teamwork, leadership, communication, and design thinking skills that can be applied to any industry. Congratulations to the winning team and all of the participants!

Photos from the event can be found on USG’s Flickr account. To learn more about USG’s Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership, visit their webpage.