News

Students Partake in Innovate Wellness Poster Presentation!

Over the past two years, the UConn Wellness Coalition, Student Health and Wellness has brought together UConn students, staff, and faculty from across campus to work towards creating a culture of wellness. The UConn Wellness Coalition has teamed up with OPIM Innovate to host the 2nd Annual Innovate Wellness Challenge: this year’s challenge addresses student stress. 

On Wednesday March 4th, UConn competing students from various academic disciplines took part in the Innovate Wellness poster challenge, in which they showcased their ideas for the Innovate Wellness challenge that were broken up into 3 stages; Empathize, Define, & Ideate. The idea’s proposed varied from sleep rooms, to different lighting apparatus, to rooms designated for stress relief. 

Stresswell, a team trying to bring back a once popular “Wellness Station” said the event allowed them to do some additional market research, and hear about student wants before they finalized an idea. “A lot of the feedback we’ve been getting showed that students want a designated spot for their mental well-being.” 

Students and staff were invited to judge the presentations as well, Ajshae Zulfi, Junior at UConn placed first last year for her idea “Wellness Points”, Ajshae judged some of the teams, and said she likes the idea of decreasing student stress. Ajshae also wants to advise this year’s competitors to “remember who their audience is, and to know that it has the potential to be utilized and impact lives.” 

Our next event is on March 26th, in the Student Union ballroom. All students, staff and faculty are welcome! For more information about the challenge visit: innovatelabs.uconn.edu/wellness-challenge.

Students Explore Applications of Machine Learning!

On March 6th, 2020 OPIM Innovate hosted their Applications to Machine Learning Workshop part of their spring workshop series. Students learned the different perspectives around Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Students also learned several direct search methods such as Nelder and Mead, Shor’s r-Algorithm and random search. Students learned how these methods use reinforcement learning strategies in machine learning. 

The workshop was taught by Nadia Udler, a Computer Science and Engineering professor at UConn Stamford. Udler has a background in Computer Science and applied mathematics. Udler was intrigued by Artificial Intelligence because she always thought computers could do more, she says “AI is like a child trying to learn, it’s that simple!” Udler believes the future of AI is up to our imagination, she teaches a Contemporary Issues in Computer Science and Engineering course where students discuss the different types of AI and how this technology will both help and disrupt our society.  

Dharani Rangthale, a Finance major at Uconn, said she enjoyed the workshop because it answered a lot of the questions she had regarding ML and AI. Dharani thought it was interesting learning about derivatives during the workshop because it made her realize how important math was in learning ML. 

23rd Annual Frontiers on April 3-4th 2020!

Frontiers in Undergraduate Research provides an opportunity for UConn’s talented undergraduate researchers to share their work with the university community.

Frontiers poster exhibition allows any undergraduate student to present their research or creative work. Interested presenters must complete a brief application in order to share their work at this event. The Spring 2020 application will remain open through noon on March 9, 2020. The fall and spring Frontiers events are occasions to celebrate the efforts of student researchers and their dedicated mentors.

Frontiers exhibitions are open to the public and we encourage all members of the university community to attend! Come talk with students about the projects they’ve pursued and what they’ve learned through their engagement in research. Several hundred students present their projects at Frontiers exhibitions each year.

                        Session times for Spring 2020 Frontiers:

  • Session 1: Friday, April 3, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
  • Session 2: Friday, April 3, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
  • Session 3: Saturday, April 4, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
  • Session 4: Saturday, April 4, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.

Spring 2020 Application 

Students learn Python in an Introduction to Python Workshop!

On Friday February 28th, OPIM Innovate hosted their Introduction to Python workshop, part of OPIM Innovate’s Spring workshop series. The session was open to UConn students, staff, and faculty and covered the basics of python programming. Students were able to learn basic syntax and data structures and write some simple programs. 

Eli Udler, senior English and Computer Science dual degree undergraduate student, who led the workshop said the workshop was meant to serve business students who’ve never seen a computer before. “The idea being you can start from little to no experience and still get the idea of what coding is.” Udler taught students about different data types, data structures, and a few algorithms utilizing collab software along with his partner Thomas Rivet. 

       For more information about OPIM Innovate workshops visit: innovate labs.uconn.edu!

Summer Innovation Opportunity with TIP!

 The TIP Innovation Fellows Program pairs UConn students with on-campus tech startup companies for mentored summer research.  Be part of the fast-paced world of a tech start-up located in Storrs or at UConn Health in Farmington – and help UConn’s startup companies develop new devices, drugs, digital tech and manufacturing advances.  The program is 10 weeks long and includes a $4,000 stipend! Weekly seminars and a program Symposium.

“The TIP Innovation Fellows program offered a rare opportunity for me to explore the boundary between entrepreneurship and technology while providing a space to improve in industry-level skills. I would definitely recommend the program to students who are seeking a unique internship doing cutting edge research in a collaborative environment” –  Patrick Hocking, 2019 TIP Fellow

Apply now

Application Deadline: March 6th, 2018

 

Innovate Wellness Challenge Kickoff!

Over the past two years, the UConn Wellness Coalition, Student Health and Wellness has brought together UConn students, staff, and faculty from across campus to work towards creating a culture of wellness. The UConn Wellness Coalition has teamed up with OPIM Innovate to host the 2nd Annual Innovate Wellness Challenge: this year’s challenge addresses student stress. Both departments value student voice and are passionate about creating experiential learning opportunities that allows students to voice their opinions while using their creativity to design solutions.

 The Innovate Wellness Challenge Kick-off took place in the Business Lounge on February 18th and was filled with various teams from diverse backgrounds. Tara Watrous,  Project Coordinator for both UConn’s School of Business and Student Health and Wellness, started off the kick-off by sharing the Challenge prompt and data. According to the 2019 National College Health Assessment, stress is the greatest academic impediment for students. This also outlined student responses on the impact of stress on their academic performance, stress reduction resources students have received from their universities/if any, and their experience with stress etc. 

Keinna Beeson, a senior at UConn who heard about the challenge through daily digest, talked about how she was drawn to the challenge because of her passion for self care. Keinna expressed that self-care is key to being successful in life and wants to empower others to form healthy habits. Beeson stated “Students are more likely to thrive when they receive more self care help, especially within institutions.”

UConn staff and faculty attended the kick-off as well. Colleen Attikson, a Health Educator with Student Health and Wellness, who supported the challenge last year, working closely with Team Pawsitivity talked about the importance of having student input. Attikson expressed her excitement for seeing the variety of ideas, and interacting with the students. Tara Watrous, Project Coordinator, explained “Students have the best vantage point to grapple with these problems. We are all eager and excited to see what the students come up with.” 

 

Our next event is March 4th, 2-5PM, in the North Reading Room, Wilbur Cross. The student teams will be sharing their ideas through poster presentations. All students, staff and faculty are welcome! For more information about the challenge visit the Innovate Wellness Challenge page. 

MEM Majors Brainstorm Manufacturing Solutions with AR/VR

On Thursday, November 21st, OPIM Innovate hosted a rotational virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) workshop for UConn’s Management and Engineering for Manufacturing program (MEM). Here, students from Professor Mousumi Roy’s MEM3221 class were tasked with brainstorming ways in which either VR or AR can be integrated into the manufacturing process. 

In order for OPIM Innovate to accommodate all participating MEM students, the same workshop was given three different times throughout mid-November. Stations were set up around the Innovate Lab to accommodate several people at once, featuring devices such as the Google Cardboard headset and the Oculus Go. The most popular of all virtual reality devices was the HTC Vive. This wired headset allowed students to participate in Valve’s The Lab, an immersive experience with various minigames showcasing the potential of VR. 

After participating in all stations, students became more comfortable with VR and AR technology. This led to the insurgence of ideas for MEM applications and an enthusiasm for innovation. Daniel Castillo (MEM ‘19), for example, informed me that VR would be a great way to start training incoming manufacturing personnel. “It can teach us how to program and utilize on-site machinery,” he said. “Since we don’t all have access to these machines in schools, VR is a great alternative.” 

Two other students, Nick Porebski (MEM ‘20) and Ben Zekowski (MEM ‘20), informed me of their ideas for VR applications in computer-aided design (CAD). “Students could view and interact with a draft of their design in real-time,” Nick said. “And, since you don’t have to print the material,” Ben added, “it could save on time and cut costs.” 

We thank the MEM department for their interest in the OPIM Innovate initiative and to all the students who participated in this event! For any innovation inquiries, please feel free to consult the Lab, again! 

Hanover Image Analytics Challenge Displays the Power of Interdisciplinary Teams

On Wednesday, November 20th, OPIM Innovate hosted the Hanover Image Analytics Challenge in partnership with Hanover Insurance Group. There, ten teams competed for the opportunity to implement their solutions in a real-world business setting through a spring semester externship. Cash prizes were split between four different thresholds, each having their own requirements. While the lowest threshold provided each participant with a baseline of $100, the highest threshold awarded each team member with $500 and an opportunity to work with Hanover. The objective of the challenge was to have participants make use of a dataset including details on current customer properties and prospective properties to be insured by Hanover.

The difference between this challenge and other case competitions is that it implored students to search for interdisciplinary team members. Rather than having all participants be business majors or intra-major, there were a multitude of participants with little to no business or technical knowledge. As explained by Rob Brewer, Middle Market Vice President and Chief Underwriting Officer at Hanover, the required roles self-assigned by each team member–business analyst, marketing specialist, developer, and data analyst–reflected Hanover’s real-world teams. “Our employees seldom work by themselves,” Brewer said. “They’re always working together across roles.” 

Through the Hanover Challenge, students learned the benefits of cross-boundary teaming. Competitors from OP I AM, one of the Threshold 3 teams recognized during the Awards Dinner following the challenge, made this clear during the Q&A portion of their presentation. When asked what was most challenging while working through their solution, which included the use of data science methodologies to detect and assess certain property holdings, Mariela Kridzelis (MIS & English ‘19), the team’s marketing specialist, commented on the benefits of an interdisciplinary team. “I wouldn’t necessarily go down the challenge route,” she said. “I thought working with my team members was extremely enlightening. We all learned something from each other.” 

Vaughn Nangle, the data analyst of another Tier 3 group entitled Alpha Analytics, also commented on team dynamics. “Throughout the Challenge, my team members and I collaborated so well that we thought we were working beyond our roles. By the very end of the Challenge when we finally presented our solution, that’s when we realized we were actually performing our roles the entire time. In working together, we shared skillsets and expanded each other’s knowledge–it just goes to show how beneficial teams like these are.” The solution Alpha Analytics presented to the judges was a variable heat map of various insurance risk factors. 

We’d like to extend a warm thank you to the Hanover Insurance Group and all faculty and staff that helped with the Hanover Image Analytics Challenge. We’d also like to thank the ten remaining teams of the Image Analytics Challenge for presenting their amazing solutions! 

Please scroll through the slide deck below for team photos.

 

Student Spotlight: Andrew Eastman

Raised in small-town East Granby, CT, Andrew Eastman (MIS ‘20) has always had a passion for technology. In addition to high-school sports and extracurriculars, his grade-school hobbies included building computers and modifying video games with his friends. While working with technology influenced his upbringing, using technology applications to solve business problems or to create unique experiences for others was, and continues to be, his primary motivator. After taking multiple high-school-level business classes and enjoying the experience, he knew he wanted to pursue a degree in business. Touring UConn and learning more about the Management Information Systems (MIS) major during his senior year, he realized the MIS program was a perfect fit for him. “It combined my interests in business and technology,” he said. “And since I graduated in a class of sixty-or-so kids, I was excited about UConn’s size and diversity.”

Once at UConn, Andrew sought after every possible way to pursue his interests and develop his professional skills. He saw every opportunity as a way to improve, learn, and mature into a more complete adult. This led him to join many different business organizations, including the Information Management Association (IMA). He found the IMA to be a great way to meet other technology-oriented students, learn more about the IT field, and network with professionals. He also participated in many case competitions including the PwC Case Competition, the MIS Case Competition, and, more recently, the Hanover Image Analytics Challenge. “I definitely recommend doing case comps,” he said. “They’re fun and you usually get to work on a real-world problem, so it’s a great way to get some experience under your belt.”

During his junior year, Andrew became the treasurer of the IMA. The purpose of IMA, as briefly mentioned above, is to bridge the gap between UConn students and IT opportunities, regardless of their major. “As treasurer, you manage all the financials of the organization, but it’s not only about doing my job. It’s also about meeting new students, professionals and building connections,” he explained. When asked what being part of the IMA e-board taught him, he answered the following: “The role taught me how to coordinate efforts with many different people, organizations, and to work as a team with other E-board members. It also helped me improve my public speaking and presentation skills.” 

This past summer, Andrew interned at MassMutual as an IT business analyst. As part of his role and summer project, he assisted in the development of a large database. His objectives were to convert three of the company’s database systems into one master database. He also had to update the new database from its outdated version. Andrew conveyed the needs of his specific team with help from the functional knowledge he acquired. His work also had many project management elements, including the use of scrum and agile methodologies within the company. 

Now that Andrew is finishing up his last two semesters of college, he feels prepared for life after undergrad. “MIS definitely helped me find out what I wanted to do,” he said. “The fact that there are so many resources provided is huge.” Specific to the Operations and Information Management department, he’d like to shout out Jon Moore: “He’s a great resource. He can help you with anything MIS related, whether it be course selection, general advice, or finding an internship or job.”

For students currently interested in MIS or beginning to pursue the major, Andrew offers this advice: “Definitely get involved with MIS events as soon as possible. The major offers incredible opportunities, and if you take them you’ll definitely have a leg up on the competition. Utilize the resources in the Gladstein Lab [to teach yourself emerging technologies] and participate in IMA functions to hear about potential employment opportunities. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Experience is extremely valuable.”

UCAELI Students Learn Design Thinking During Innovate Workshop

On Thursday, November 14th, OPIM Innovate hosted a Design Thinking workshop in partnership with the UConn American English Language Institute (UCAELI). During this workshop, students participating in the College Preparatory Experience program learned the first three steps of design thinking: define, empathize, and ideate. These steps implore students to define business objectives, understand the needs of their audience, and brainstorm potential ideas for a business solution. Tara Watrous, Innovate’s project coordinator, assisted students throughout the design thinking process by providing an overview of each step. She then provided the following prompt for students to answer in groups: “How can technology be utilized to enhance learning English as a second language?”

Throughout the group portion of the workshop, participating students were able to work with Innovate Lab specialists for insight. As the prompt allowed for many open-ended ideas, each group had their own unique solution at the culmination of the workshop. Ideas included:

  • a chatbot
  • a virtual reality application where students can immerse themselves in English-speaking environments
  • an application for students of different native languages to communicate and practice other tongues
  • an augmented reality application that quizzes students on their English by displaying images that represent different dictionary words
  • mixed-reality glasses language learners can wear to learn English through environment narration

“The combination of our students’ innovative minds and emerging technology create immense potential for solving problems,” Watrous commented after the event. “Each student group came up with their own unique and creative idea for English-language learning. We hope to see them in our space again to start prototyping!”