On the tenth anniversary of Pitt's Randall Family Big Idea Competition, the University's Innovation Institute announced the formation of The Big Idea Center.
The Center will bring together several existing university programs, including the Randall family competition, Blast Furnace and a series of "student bombings". Blast Furnace is considered an "idea accelerator for students", using tutoring to help students prepare their ideas to launch professional incubators.
The student bombings are 24-hour events, very similar to the beginning weekends, in which the students form teams and incubate ideas. Originally part of the Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, charges will continue to occur each semester.
"We've been working on this for quite some time, trying to establish programs for four years where there were none," says Babs Carryer, who will lead the Center. "Now, we are consolidating existing programs and giving students a place within the Innovation Institute that is particularly for them, where they can create their own great ideas."
The Center will also promote participation in events and competitions such as the ACC InVenture Award and the Commercial Rice Plan Competition. This year, Pitt had two teams in the ACC event. It was the first time that a Pitt-related team was represented in the Rice competition, which is the nation's largest collegiate graduate start competition.
Four Growers, the Pitt team led by 2016 alumnus Brandon Contino and senior students Dan Chia and Daniel Garcia to automate tomato harvesting in commercial greenhouses, took a place in both competitions.
According to Evan Facher, interim director of the Innovation Institute, The Big Idea Center will have five focus areas: education, events and competitions, funding, incubation and acceleration, and tutoring.
"There is a growing hunger for innovation and entrepreneurship among Pitt students," says Facher. The Big Idea Center "makes its ideas come true through improved programming and resources."
The Randall family's original great ideas competition began a decade ago when Bob Randall, founder of TRACO Windows, committed $ 1,000,000 in 10 years to fund student business competition. With the creation of The Big Idea Center, Randall is planting the program with a donation of $ 2 million and helping to raise the rest of the capital required to operate it.
The winners of this year's Randall Family Contest of almost $ 100,000 in prizes were also announced on Thursday, with the first prize of $ 25,000 won by Four Growers. The second prizes of $ 15,000 each were obtained by OcuDERM (gel to treat ocular trauma), WheelFit (application to promote physical activity in users of manual wheelchairs) and re-vision equipment (eye tissue healing) ). More than 300 students participated in 105 teams in this year's competition, a record number.