October 19, 2018

OptimizeWayne encourages students to ask themselves, ‘why not me?’

Have an idea that could positively impact the campus community and beyond? OptimizeWayne invites all students to put their ideas into action by participating in the Social Innovation Challenge.

Students can learn more about the challenge and network with previous participants at a kickoff event on Oct. 29 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom. Following a series of workshops and events, participants will pitch their ideas for a chance to win up to $20,000 in project funding. The challenge is open to students of all majors and the deadline to submit an idea is Nov. 7.

Make Change“We want students to know that anyone can be an entrepreneur, whether you’re passionate about health, education, social justice, poverty, the environment or something else entirely,” said Sarosh Irani, president of OptimizeWayne. “If you have an idea that can make adifference, don’t wait for someone else to take action. The Social Innovation Challenge can help make your idea a reality.”

The challenge, now in its third year, has successfully helped students launch their own startups, nonprofits and more by connecting participants with an invaluable network of mentors, funding and resources, including WSU’s Innovation Hub — a centralized location designed to help connect and coordinate entrepreneurship education, technology and community partnerships. Other campus resources include Innovation Warriors, TechTown, and Wayne State’s Business and Community Law Clinic

Following the initial kickoff event, participating teams will receive support from experienced mentors and access to resources during monthly workshops, held November through March. A selection showcase — during which teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges — will take place in April 2019.

To date, the Social Innovation Challenge has helped more than 150 students develop 50 social impact projects. Irani, a junior majoring in public health, is confident that OptimizeWayne will continue to grow.

Optimize Cohort1“OptimizeWayne offers an incredibly supportive network of like-minded peers and experienced mentors who are committed to helping us succeed and grow,” he said. “We’ve been so fortunate to have the generosity of our Board of Advisors, who provide us with time, support, energy and counsel.  

The Board of Advisors includes a who’s-who of leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship from the Warrior community and beyond. Members include WSU Provost Keith Whitfield, Innovation Warriors Senior Program Administrator Aubrey Agee, and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Co-Founder and CEO of Bamboo Detroit Amanda Lewan.

2017 Social Innovation Challenge Winners

  • Students Feeding Students aims to provide all college students with healthy nourishment using local produce and group fundraising.
  • ToDoolie is a commission-free marketplace for homeowners to outsource tasks to students and for students to manage their hourly work.
  • Period is a nonprofit group working to change the conversation around periods and providing care to those in need.
  • Thrive strives to serve college students healthy food alternatives while using the profits to create care packages for pediatric oncology patients.
  • BluePrints for Pangea is a nonprofit that delivers unused medical supplies globally.

2018 Social Innovation Challenge Winners

  • Detroit Feedback Loop transports excess food to local shelters.
  • Rights for Refugees provides humanitarian aid to urban refugees that have been impacted by natural or manmade disaster to help rebuild their lives.
  • ButtonstoButton builds magnetic buttons to make getting dressed easier for anyone with physical limitations.
  • Climb On! Promotes the emotional and physical benefits of rock climbing.
  • BlueJay Music School provides music lessons to students in Detroit.
  • Detroit E3 connects Detroit youth with a network of mentors.
  • Pregnancy, Parenthood and Beyond provides parents with a encouraging community to talk about their challenges.
  • It Comes Naturally develops all natural insect repellent to combat diseases caused by mosquitos.

To learn more, visit optimizewayne.org.


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