The following post is reprinted from the Designmatters blog.
Bright and brilliant minds gathered at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on Saturday, March 26, for Open Minds 2011, the student exhibition organized by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) in conjunction with the organization’s 15th Annual Conference, Open: Catalyzing Innovation. The conference was attended by more than 380 faculty and students throughout the country who share NCIIA’s vision and benefit each year from its mission: “to support technology innovation and entrepreneurship in universities and colleges to create experiential learning opportunities for students, and successful, socially beneficial businesses.”
NCIIA was established in 1995 with the support of The Lemelson Foundation, legacy of prolific inventor Jerome Lemelson. NCIIA provides student start-ups with early stage funding, business strategy development training, mentoring, and investment, as well as provides staff and faculty with funding for courses and programs, opportunities for recognition, and entrepreneurship education training and networking. Since its founding, NCIIA has funded 325 experiential courses and new programs throughout hundreds of universities around the country and has leveraged more than 140 million dollars in additional funding, helping propel projects that have resulted in more than 100 new businesses.
The Safe Agua “Ducha Halo” team, Jessica Yeh (ENV) and Narbeh Dereghishian (PROD) were selected among the innovator teams of the Open Minds exhibition and were one of 3 teams whose video of their social innovation was chosen as a top finalist by public vote as part of the 2011 Open Minds video competition.
The weekend also served as a valuable opportunity for students to network and seek out potential investors and collaborators who can help advance their ideas. “I can’t believe we had the opportunity to meet these wonderful people that are just as passionate about their projects as much as we are about ours. I have never met so many social impact innovators and bright minds in one setting. I learned so much and gained a different perspective about the whole business side of the project. I am still in the process of trying to soak all of it in! It was a really great experience and we did get some business cards and good questions that definitely challenge us to push the Ducha Halo forward,” reflects Yeh.
For the Art Center faculty engaged in 2 distinct NCIIA -funded projects through Designmatters, NCIIA was an important opportunity to be part of panel discussions and paper presentations. Safe Agua lead faculty Dan Gottlieb, Penny Herschovitch (ENV) and Liliana Becerra (PROD) attended as well Steve Montgomery (GRAD ID), who along with Becerra (PROD) taught the Creating Social Value through Design TDS in 2010.