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UMass Lowell Student Priorities

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Overview- A Campus on the Move

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is a top-tier research university with a full plate of offerings for innovation and entrepreneurship. The faculty and administration are eager to connect with the movement of promoting an innovative culture at the university level. Being a national research university, UMass Lowell has been evolving quite a bit in the past few years: new buildings have sprouted everywhere, classrooms are being upgraded to support a culture of learning, and centers for innovation are being built to involve as many students as possible in I&E. As well, programs and offerings have been refined over the years to adapt to our changing society.

UMass Lowell's entrepreneurial culture has been active since around 2011, with the DifferenceMaker Program kicking off in 2012. Since then, a wealth of programs have been started to connect students with more opportunities for entrepreneurship. The university has taken many steps to work with the City of Lowell and local companies for the greater benefit and economic development of the area. There are many programs in place that have given us a great head start, but there is more to come yet.

Our strategic plan centers around the idea of Jump-Starting Awareness, where students acknowledge that the programs exist but aren’t necessarily aware of the other offerings in place to help the entrepreneurial process go as smoothly as possible. Our priorities are to introduce fun and engaging events to get students inspired toward an entrepreneurial venture. We want to show that the work can be extremely rewarding, even in failure. We aim to do this through a variety of channels.

Fall 2015 Innovation Fellows

Rachel Silk – Marketing and Entrepreneurship ‘16

Rachel is an active member of the entrepreneurial environment at UMass Lowell. A participant in the DifferenceMaker Program, her team started a non-profit, Love of the Game, dedicated to connecting people with disabilities to their community through sports. As an Innovation Fellow, she hopes to unify the university by generating increased awareness for the offerings for I&E.

Stephen Kender – Plastics Engineering ‘18

Stephen is also active in the innovative culture in the community around him. He and his team started a sports equipment company, KEnDERS Athletic Body Armor, around a novel and revolutionary technology. With the training from the Innovation Fellows program, he hopes to develop new and existing entrepreneurial skills so he can bring back a plethora of opportunities for his school and his community.

 

JUMP-STARTING AWARENESS

Our plans involve getting students engaged in the process of I&E, and will work with and alongside the current programs on campus. While our projects will stand on their own, we will work very hard to display the full offerings on campus to the participants.

River Hawk Tank

  • Meant to involve students in a fun and engaging activity, as a pre-cursor to the DifferenceMaker Program
  • Will be akin to a mini-accelerator, with small deliverable-based learning and quick crash course sessions
  • Will be targeting new students, to show them the complete offerings of the DifferenceMaker Program
  • When the program ends, we will funnel participants directly into the DifferenceMaker competitions
  • Program Layout
    •  Session 1: Pitch Ideas/Problems
      • ​Form teams/solutions
      • Do not have to present they could just write it down and we could read it out loud.
    • Session 2: Reach out to teams, guide them with their solutions
      • Make sure things are viable/the team is passionate enough if it is not viable
    • Session 3: Basic Business Model (Deliverable), Practice Pitch?
    • Session 4: Mock Shark Tank (Practice for College Competitions)

​Timeline

Spring 2016: Begin organizing and promoting the program, gearing up current students on the fence about entrepreneurship

Spring/Summer 2016: Talk with faculty and organizations on campus about being speakers in our Tank program

Summer 2016: Visit orientations, giving pitches for the River Hawk Tank and getting incoming students interested

Fall 2016: Jump-start the program in the first week or two of school, and funnel students into the DifferenceMaker Program

After Program: Meeting with DifferenceMakers, faculty, etc. to see where to improve

Prototyping Hackathons

  • Current hackathons at the university are just idea mixers, due to the lack of spaces available for a prototyping one
  • New makerspaces and centers for innovation open up amazing possibilities
  • Hackathon allows students to get creative with others in the end goal of creating a prototype to solve a problem
  • Hackathons will be hosted in the Spring semester (possibly integrating a Fall semester one in the future) and will be a lead-in to other DifferenceMaker Programs. Typically will be 48 hours.
  • Will have one or more themes (somewhat specific) to guide teams in their ideation

​Timeline

Fall 2016: Once dates and spaces are finalized, reach out to local industry suppliers for donations and connections

Winter 2016: Continue collecting donations, work with DifferenceMaker program to develop specific themes and rules. Advertise and promote the hackathon (announce theme and rules before winter break)

Spring 2016: First weekend of February, just before the Idea Challenge Application Deadlines

Spring 2016: Host hackathon and collect feedback on how well it was operated. Contact donors and see if they are alright with being recurring sponsors at annual events

TEDx

  • This event will be centered around inspiring students toward innovation with tips from local entrepreneurs
  • Will engage the broader innovative community

​Timeline

Fall 2016: Organize a date and location with the university (or with the city)

Winter 2016: Begin advertising and reaching out to prospective speakers

Spring 2016: Advertise more heavily and finalize list of speakers. Host event, and figure out where to improve

CONNECTING FACULTY AND STUDENTS

One other project we will be working on involves connecting students to faculty to help them learn more about a specific skill. We currently have a Mentor Program, but for students needing a basic education in a certain area it is much too formal.

Like the website LinkedIn, we seek to have faculty list their skills on the school website. These skills will have tags that can be searched for when students need help with one. When a student has a positive learning experience, they can endorse professors for a particular skill. There will be no way to “downvote” any professors, so there are no safeguards needed to prevent corrupting that system. All that is needed for this program is to talk with the website developers (who are currently working on a new site, so the timing could work out well) and see how it can be integrated.

 

2013 Innovation Fellows

Enhance & Synergize the University I&E Ecosystem

Inspire Club

Inspire Club seeks to introduce students to innovation and entrepreneurship as well as connect them to campus and community resources such as ‘DifferenceMakers”, “M2D2”, “E For All”, etc. Weekly meetings will be held to expose students to an assortment of enriching experiences from innovative business model development tools and rapid prototyping exercises to guest panels and networking events. Students will be encouraged to develop ideas and solutions on an individual basis as well as to form teams in which they will combine, re-create, refine, and expand on them. We believe that this approach will engender high levels of student leadership and foster teamwork. Inspire will become an integral part of the student I&E pathway leading students from simple ideas to sustainable venture ready models. The skills learned will reflect the lean and iterative nature of the evolving economy and not only be valuable for start-ups but also in a traditional corporate environment where forward thinking, collaboration, and creativity are rapidly being adopted.

 Goals of Inspire

  •       Introduce creative problem-solving, innovation and entrepreneurship
  •       Identify purpose in each student's education
  •       Connect students to I&E resources
  •       Encourage student leadership
  •       Push for development of a Maker Space 
  •       Help develop new experiential activities 
  •       Motivate & Capture new audiences

 

Related Links

University of Massachusetts Lowell

University Innovation Fellows:

Stephen Kender