March 16, 2018

WSU students excel at Lear Open Innovation Challenge

Sixteen Wayne State University students recently participated in the Lear Open Innovation Challenge, collaborating with peers from the University of Michigan to compete for prizes and summer internship opportunities.

In total, 57 students competed on 12 teams. All students were trained before the competition by University of Michigan professor and founder of the Innovatrium Institute for Innovation Jeff DeGraff and Wayne State professors Jim Fish and Ethan Eagle.

“The coaches’ job is to help the team members take their original individual ideas and create a group idea. It can be uncomfortable letting go of ideas that you want to pursue, but when the group comes together they create this ‘idea 2.0,’ taking everyone’s input and skills and creating something unique and engaging. This can be a challenging process and the coaches are there to guide the teams and help them,” said Eagle, team coach and Wayne State professor of engineering.  

Each team was tasked with proposing improvements to Lear's business. They did this by leveraging capability in global supply chain, advancing materials and processes in seat manufacturing, and advancing sensors and power distribution through e-systems. Business students also presented how new marketing strategies and business models could improve Lear.

The team projects were judged by a distinguished panel including Gary Witus, Wayne State University Industrial Engineering Professor, and Salim Marouf, last year’s Lear X-Prize winner and a Wayne State civil engineering student. The panel selected five winning teams and coaches selected five winning individuals.

Each team member was given one role: artist, athlete, sage or engineer. Eagle said team coaches looked for students who went above and beyond in their particular role. While picking individual winners, Eagle chose team members who understood their role on their teams and contributed effectively.

Senior mechanical engineering student Nicole Goldi was on the first-place team, winning a summer internship opportunity with Lear. Other Wayne State student winners include biomedical engineering majors Emma Mann and Caroline Landes; mechanical engineering majors Jingyi Su, John “Jack” Pierick and Akshaya Poojari; industrial design major Evan Damron; industrial and systems engineering major Iyinoluwa Omishope; computer science and environmental engineering Ph.D. candidate Javad Rosterei; and industrial and systems engineering Ph.D. candidate  Elham Taghizadeh.

“These teams are hungry for their next challenges. I heard from a participant this year that her team is still in contact and still focused on their ideas and looking for more ways to work together. The Lear Open Innovation Challenge does a great job of bringing together these educated and competitive students who want to find creative ways to solve real world problems,” Eagle said.