Invent for the Planet challenges students to create solutions for global problems

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A 48-hour extensive-design experience, Invent for the Planet, is returning to Boise State for the third year on Feb. 14. In the event, students from across the world compete in teams to solve global issues.

Nic Miller is the executive director of the Venture College which partners up with the College of Engineering to host Invent for the Planet. While it’s Miller’s first year being part of this competition, he says it’s a great opportunity for students.

“It gives students from Boise State the opportunity to not only put their skills on display at a national and global level, but it also gives them an opportunity to see teams across the country and across the world, and see how they stack up against some of that competition,” Miller said. “They also get to learn about some of the challenges that are facing our planet and try to come up with solutions to those.”

JoAnn Lighty, dean of the Engineering department, is an avid supporter of a competition such as this one being part of Boise State.

“Boise State’s known for its innovation, and being an innovative transdisciplinary place,” Lighty said. “This is a really good way to get students across our campus involved in a design experience in 48 hours. And the more transdisciplinary the team is, the better those solutions are because they’re these grand-challenge problems that require not only technical expertise but also communication skills and social science issues and business issues, as well.”

Riley McCrady is a junior majoring in elementary education and has participated in Invent for the Planet for the past two years, as well as being signed up again this year. While it may be a stressful and quick competition, she feels the benefits outweigh the stress.

“The combination of critical thinking, prototyping, teamwork, and presenting really allows students to hone in on their preexisting skills and continue building upon them,” McCrady said. “Students get the chance to work with students that they may have never met before and are from different academic backgrounds. Overall, the competition may seem stressful in the 48-hour time span, but once it is over the payoff is extremely beneficial.”

Miller said that although the competition is only 48 hours, there is a lot of work put into the event.

“Friday afternoon is when they come in and get the challenges. They will form teams and start formulating their ideas,” Miller said. “Then all day Saturday they’ll start prototyping solutions while also working with advisors. That evening they will start working on their elevator pitch. They’ll come back Sunday morning, they’ll finish their elevator pitch, make a short video, and then they’ll deliver the pitch Sunday afternoon to our judges, and then the winners will be announced.”

This competition is free to enter and open to all students within any major. Miller said that it’s not only a competition designed to take on real-world problems but also a chance to experience working together as a team.

“Our engineering students need to know what it’s like to work with a humanities student, a business student, an art student, because that’s what the real world looks like. Journalists don’t just work with journalists and business people don’t just work with business people,” Miller said. “We all have to work across disciplines. So this event enables people to come together for interdisciplinary teams, and have a real-life experience all packed into one weekend.”

Lighty expressed how this isn’t just a competition with a goal of winning, it also emphasizes the importance of teamwork and thinking outside the box.

“This is a great example of our opportunities that we would like to have our students participate in because it really provides a distinctive and interdisciplinary opportunity for them,” Lighty said. “It affords them to push their creativity, innovation, team building, and communication skills in a really inclusive, fun and globally impactful way.”

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