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The Eastern Echo Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

Women in Philanthropy Partners with CISE to Sponsor First SolvEMU Competition

Women in Philanthropy and the Creative Science Inquiry Experience program (CSIE) hosted the first SolvEMU -- a critical thinking competition in the Student Center on Friday, April 5.

The competition brought together teams of students and community members to offer ideas and innovative solutions to four issues that plague our local community. Brainstorming sessions took place throughout the day, followed by presentations and prizes starting at 2 p.m.

“We offer students non-traditional learning experiences through course development . . . in a way that helps engage students and lets them apply what they’re learning beyond the classroom,” Dr. Batoul Abdallah of the CSIE program said.

Not only does this program invite the community into their workshops, but it also partners with outside resources like nonprofits and NGOs to give students the experience of applying their skills. The program seeks to attract and retain students in STEM programs.

This is the first year for SolvEMU, a competition based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Solveathon program. According to MIT, “a Solveathon is a workshop focused on rapid generation and refinement of solutions to Solve’s annual challenges.” This offers an area to create and reimagine thoughts and ideas and to create new innovations in a collective way.

When creating this competition, the CSIE staff followed the guidelines of the Solveathon while putting a local spin on the topics. Eight teams consisting of students from a variety of programs as well as members of the community presented solutions to the following local issues:

  • How can we improve water quality in Michigan while still maintaining and developing a strong Michigan economy? 
  • How can we create community-based solutions to mitigate the opioid crisis? How can EMU provide more equitable, engaging and adaptable learning opportunities? 
  • How can Michigan universities work with local industries to train “work-ready” students? 

The presentations were then judged by Steve Pernecky, Associate Dean, and local business owner, Thomas Adams of TJA Staffing. 

Some of the solutions offered to include an app that allows people impacted by the opioid crisis to connect anonymously with healthcare professionals and support groups, creates a star rating to promote and gauge inclusivity within classrooms on EMU, partners with businesses in local industries to create specialized training materials to promote job readiness of students upon graduation and a program called Taking Back Washtenaw. This would be used to promote health and assist in the decline of chemical dependency in Washtenaw County.

The winning team members each received Apple iPads with Pencils, the second-place team received iPads and the third place team received Beats Earphones.

All of the team’s ideas can be submitted to MIT’s Solveathon website for additional prizes. This also gives teams the opportunity to collaborate with other people and further develop their solutions.

“They really encourage the open market space idea, building connections with people across different sectors,” Dr. Abdallah said. 

She hopes to make this an annual event with more sponsors and hopefully more students and community members, as well.