They did it during an event called Innovation Weekend, which brought together eight ambitious thinkers for a mental marathon. The students organized the event when a local foundation called for ideas that would benefit community health.
The event, held in early December, brought together students from eight majors.
The group centered its proposal on issues surrounding donor relations. They proposed a website and mobile application that provides an easier and more customized giving experience.
The app would find specific initiatives that donors might want to support based on their interests, previous searches and giving history, says one of the organizers, Matthew Gantz ’14, Eagan, Minn. It would also provide tiers of giving that help donors understand how their money is being used.
“They would know that $80 would give a certain number of homeless kids blankets,” says Gantz, a business (finance) major. “It is a tangible outcome to the donation.”
The challenge forced students to apply their classroom knowledge to a real-world issue with a looming deadline.
As a first-year student, Zach Lipp ’16, Fargo, N.D., appreciated being on the same playing field as more seasoned students.
“Here my age was inconsequential,” he says. “Good ideas were adopted. Bad ones were dismissed. It was invigorating.”
For Gantz, it was eye opening to see what his classmates from other disciplines had to offer. He enjoyed watching the math major and physics major develop an algorithm that would prove essential for the app to function, for instance.
He hopes to see innovation weekends become a frequent occurrence on campus and possibly have a tri-college competition.
“It was great to work with people with so many talents in different areas,” he says.
The group’s proposal is being submitted to the Dakota Medical Foundation’s Breakthrough Idea Challenge, which will award up to $100,000 for development of the best ideas that improve the health and wellness of people in the region.