University hosts first ever Innovation Week

By Laura Fink

The University’s first Innovation Week began Feb. 19, giving students and staff an opportunity to recognize the culture and history of innovation that has accumulated on campus over the course of the past decades.

Hosted by the Technology Entrepreneur Center and the School of Art and Design, the events of the celebration will continue through Friday and organizers hope to host Innovation Week annually in the years to come.

Rhiannon Clifton, the assistant director of the Technology Entrepreneur Center, said that the University decided to host an Innovation Week after an invitation from Stanford University. Stanford also hosted an Innovation Tournament from Feb. 22 to Feb. 29, and encouraged other universities throughout the nation to participate as well.

“In an effort to celebrate the rich history and culture of innovation at Illinois, we wanted to highlight events, exhibitions and displays featuring or containing innovation,” said Clifton. “There’s quite an impressive list of events and exhibitions, which further proves the point that innovation is pervasive on this campus, from Engineering to Art and Design, from ACES to Academic Outreach.”

Events that took place during the celebration included the Innovation Tournament, the Invention to Venture Workshop, the Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize awards ceremony and several guest lecturers.

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“Innovation Week is a really exciting new event this year,” said Doug Osborne, the communications coordinator for Designmatters. Designmatters, which sponsored a lecture during the week, is a yearlong lecture series in part of a campus wide attempt to fuse knowledge bases from different disciplines.

The Innovation Tournament is a competition open to University students, in which they are presented with an everyday object and asked to create as much value with the object as possible. This year the object is rubber bands.

Tyler Matteson and Nick Becharas, both sophomores in FAA, devoted a significant amount of time for their entry in the competition. The students constructed hundreds of rubber band chains that will make a giant web when put together. They plan to hang the web from trees and lamps on the Quad, promoting their newfound campaign called No Hate, which promotes unity and acceptance of diversity across campus.

“There have been incidents on campus dealing with diversity,” said Matteson. “We wanted to join 40,000 rubber bands, one for each student, and make a web to promote unity.”

Competitors, like Matteson and Becharas, will upload videos of their creations on YouTube to be judged on Thursday. The award ceremony for the winning team will be held on Friday.

One of the most featured events is the Innovation Celebration, an award presented to individuals or organizations that have made sincere contributions towards the economic and technological advancement of Champaign County. This year marks the third year that the University and Champaign County Economic Development Corporation have collaborated for the Innovation Celebration. Community members of Champaign County submitted nominations of individuals for eight different award categories.

The eight categories are representative of excellence and entrepreneurship and economic and technological impact. Some area businesses and organizations that are past winners include Volition, Inc., Wolfram Research, Inc., Obiter Research, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Innovation Week is a great opportunity for exhibitors at the University to show their support for innovation, Clifton said. Sponsors of this event created a logo brand that exhibitors are allowed to use to show dedication to innovation at the University.

“We plan to continue to use the branding materials and the Web site to highlight events and exhibits featuring innovation throughout the year and to continue with these efforts every year,” Clifton said. “We think that innovation and creativity are great skills for our students to hone in order to become tomorrow’s inventors, visionaries and leaders.”