Catalyst Summer-A prototyping event an innovative success

Published July 2018

Written by Laura Henschel

Because of IA, my teammates, and the Catalyst showcase I was able to experience and contribute to a cause I never would’ve initiated myself.

On June 15, hundreds of innovators convened in the Rion Ballroom with one common question: How might we use innovation to protect the biodiversity in our hometowns?

Students in the Creativity-in-Action minor course were challenged to conduct a five-week rapid prototyping program to improve the preservation of local biodiversity. These solutions were then entered into Catalyst, Innovation Academy’s biannual innovation competition. Teams presented to a panel of esteemed judges—ranging from local business leaders to seasoned academics.

Andy Martin, Vice President of InfoTech and guest-judge at the event, was impressed by the demonstration of talent, creativity, and innovative spirit of the University of Florida’s “exceptionally bright students.”

“I was surprised by how well every group was able to articulate their value proposition in such a short amount of time,” Martin said.

Bright Idea winner Ricardo Gutierrez and his group’s solution BioFil—a biodegradable cigarette filter to decrease litter and harm to local biodiversity—felt thankful for the opportunity to practice rapid prototyping. “I expected it to be difficult-- but it was actually easy if you think outside of the box,” Gutierrez said.

Oy Dam! group member Sara Hashemian felt a true sense of accomplishment when her team won the Gator Good award, granted to the group with the highest capability for social impact. The project focused on decreasing the amount of harmful nitrogen and phosphorous in waterways caused by polluted runoff.

“Before being apart of the Innovation Academy, I never saw myself being challenged to make a positive impact on biodiversity,” Hashemian said. “Because of IA, my teammates, and the Catalyst showcase I was able to experience and contribute to a cause I never would’ve initiated myself.”

Andy Martin offered a key piece of advice to participants in IA’s upcoming Summer B Catalyst and to other innovators alike: “The most successful ideas will have a realistic, sustainable business plan that is mutually beneficial for both strengthening biodiversity and for whomever is investing in the idea.”

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