Ohio State students and faculty gathered to compete at the first annual IDEA FEST, which took place this past weekend.
The event, hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences with the help of the Technology Commercialization Office, was an open-house competition where students and faculty were invited to pitch ideas for apps and software that they think could have the power to impact the world.
Attendees from different fields collaborated on their ideas, such as students from the business college working with social science and engineering majors to design a project which would create immersion with technology, many focusing on how technology and software have the potential to help educate and improve lives.
Andrea Ward Ross, assistant executive dean for research for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the event provided an opportunity to show the breadth of the discipline of the arts and sciences at OSU.
“You’ve got anthropology, dance, chemistry, art, all of that together — we believe that all of those people working together make for a much better experience and a much better world,” she said. “It just made sense to have a global event to bring a lot of people together, and I think you’ve got to see the results of that (at the event).”
The event took place at the newly renovated Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building, where attendees were split into teams and left to think of an idea and tasked with creating a presentation for a panel of judges.
Christopher Hadad, the divisional dean of natural and mathematical sciences, acted as one of the judges. He said he was happy with how all of the teams’ ideas turned out and how having an event like this can inspire young minds and give students a chance to practice their entrepreneurial skills.
“We hope to increase the entrepreneurial interest for students and to have them to be able to know that creating businesses are within their powers,” Hadad said. “Our goal was to make interaction between different disciplines to come up with a solution to a problem that they consider to either be sustainable, important for society or just plain old cool.”
One team wanted to create a case for the Apple Watch that would use braille to help blind users feel the time or read incoming messages.
Other projects tried to appeal to a bigger audience, like that of the team that wanted to create solar-powered lampposts to save energy and reduce light pollution.
After hours of presentations and judging, the winner of the IDEA FEST was UExplore, a team whose goal was to use the Oculus Rift virtual reality program for education.
The team showed judges how the program could provide a first-person view of a galaxy and demonstrated how much the viewer can learn from that perspective in just five minutes. In its presentation, UExplore wanted to find a way for students to engage in classes by immersing them in the lesson.
The team consisted of Cynthia Dassler, an ecology professor, Wayne Schlingman, an astronomy professor, Alex Krieger, a computer engineering student, and Rosemary Garry, a business student.
“I think the intractability and application to education was a key thing,” Dassler said. “(Virtual reality) is so versatile to so many disciplines. If you’re a teacher in physics, you can ask physics questions while you’re walking on Mars. If you’re a biologist, you want to ask how would you put life on this or could you put life on this planet – those types of questions could be asked depending on which module or which piece you’re looking at.”
Garry said she, too, thought there were many applications for virtual reality in the classroom. She added that people who want to study history could experience its most important moments.
“This is very applicable. It hasn’t really been done yet, at least to the extent it needs to be,” Garry said.
Even though the competition is over, Garry said she hopes to continue working on the project with the help of her teammates, such as Krieger, who will continue to apply his open-software expertise, and Schlingman, who used his astronomy knowledge during the competition and will send reports back to contacts who are already interested in UExplore.
Ross said she was excited with the enthusiasm and energy the contestants showed and added that the event proved a point about perseverance and how the drive to strive for more is still in the hearts of today’s generation.
“One of the criticisms that I hear in the media from time to time is that our newest generation that’s in college don’t have that entrepreneurial spark,” she said. “That’s just wrong. You can see today that there are so many ideas that I hope that it gives them lifelong thirst for wanting to create something and that they don’t stop.”