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How to expose incoming freshman to I&E using a design blitz

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One of the greatest things about college is that it opens the door to all new experiences. There are so many different opportunities that are thrown at freshmen right off the bat. But how does one actually get freshmen to take interest in what they have to offer?

With innovation and entrepreneurship in particular, it is sometimes difficult to get people to understand exactly what it all entails. You need to give them a taste how to think with an I & E mindset to really get them excited. This is where you would give them that chance through the concept of the Design Blitz.

So what is a Design Blitz? A Design Blitz is a strategical method that can be used to create solutions very quickly under strict time constraints. It is brought forth with a lot of energy and enthusiasm in order to create a solution that is extraordinary. It is called a “ blitz” because of its sudden nature. With the pressure of  little time, you have to jump in full force to get the well thought out solution you need in the little time you are given.


One of the crucial hurdles that you must jump, is getting the word out about your Design Blitz workshops. You want freshman to be intrigued enough to give your workshop a try. The most effective method of advertising your events is by word-of-mouth. In order to really spark someone's interest and persuade them to attend your event you should have a face-to-face interaction. This helps you connect on a deeper level with freshman in a more personal way.

Also, there are pre-existing groups which have organized innovation and entrepreneurship workshops. By identifying groups within and around campus who are involved in the I&E ecosystem, you will increase the numbers of personal interactions andincrease the promotion of the event. This provides you with many more mouths to spread the word. Another good way to attract attendees/participants is to secure a high-profile individual to talk at your event. This will not only attract freshman who will bring their friends, but many other members of the student body and even faculty. Including a field your students want to learn more about (for example, Social Entrepreneurship or human centered design) in your I & E workshops and events is a great way to generate students' interest.


When planning your event, it is important that you keep everything organized and well thought out. You need to plan a location, shopping list, cost, materials etc. For example, when it comes to location, a centrally located or well-known location to hold the event is in your best interest. This makes it easy for everyone to find, plus if it is central, people that are walking by tend to stop to see what is going on. Ideally, the location should have ample room to move around and be very open.

As for materials to bring, there are not many needed. Your basic rapid prototyping supplies, which include markers, sticky notes, etc., will be enough. You will want to make a detailed list of the items you already have and the items that you will need to go buy. This way you will cut costs by not purchasing items you already have.

Speaking of costs, you will want to make sure you find everything in your event that could possibly cost money. This includes materials, guest speakers, renting equipment, food (if you choose) and anything else that you could potentially need funding to cover.

Finding Funding

After calculating all the costs, you may realize that you will need funding. When you think of how to get funding, think of how you pitch one of your innovative ideas. You will want to do that same thing to get your funding. You want to get people excited about your workshop event and show them how the event will help promote the good of the campus. 

One way you can get funding is through collaboration. If you team up with existing organizations/maker spaces on campus this can be a great way to not only 1) secure funding through co-sponsored projects but also 2) collaborate with more change makers on campus and therefore, get the word out about your I & E event. Also, reach out to faculty and staff of the university. You would be surprised who you can find that is willing to fund your event.

Selecting a Date and Time

Try not to schedule an event on campus close to finals or midterms, because not as many students will show up (even though they'd love to). It is also advisable to check well in advance of the event to see if your event clashes with any other high-profile and well-publicized event on campus. You don't want to lose any potential participants.

Introducing freshmen to I & E during Orientation week gives UIF great visibility and gets conversation and action about innovation started on campus at the beginning of the school year. To really keep the I&E mindset in motion, try not to teach all you can in one event, but rather many events over time. If students are interested in coming to a single meeting, chances are they will attend more than one meeting because they are passionate about their ideas. Having multiple sessions over a semester will allow continuous growth and networking among students. Select times that work for the attendees; do not schedule during the meeting times of other organizations/clubs that your target attendees are interested in (i.e. Society of Women Engineers, Hackathon, etc.).

Something to keep in mind: freshmen tend to pick out clubs and organizations to participate in early in the semester, therefore it may be in your best interest to set up the first session in the beginning of the semester. You could contact freshmen orientation directors to possibly arrange the preliminary session during orientation to capture the attention of your target attendees early on.

Lessons and Tips 

In fellows' past experiences, a few things were learned and a few tips were picked up.

First, don't be hesitant to host a workshop because you are afraid there will be a small turnout.If you don't go ahead with your project, you'll never know. It is those few passionate students who really make the difference in pushing forward ideas anyway. Second, take care that no other campus organization is hosting an event on the same day (ex: NYU Stern School of Business hosted a well-publicized event on the same day). This diminishes the turnout in at least one of the events. And finally, make sure the event is unlike pre-existing events on campus so that the experience is a memorable and unique one worth attending more than once. Pointless repetition is boring; have diverse offerings. Choose from an array of exiciting event ideas: competition, a guest speaker, a meet-and-greet, a hackathon, a design thinking workshop etc. Maintain the element of novelty. This will improve the student experience and overall quality of the event.