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UA campus members to showcase research, business plans at Innovation Day

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Gabriela Diaz / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students have the opportunity to showcase projects, like a website that would help users achieve their life goals, at the UA’s 10th annual Innovation Day on Thursday.

Innovation Day began when the Office of University Research Parks wanted to encourage UA faculty and students to think of ways to commercialize technology instead of publishing research.

“We were looking to create a way to change the culture among the faculty and students,” said Molly Gilbert, director of community engagement at the Office of University Research Parks.

The Research Parks wanted to take the technology and ideas that are coming from the university and put them into the community to help improve people’s lives and contribute to the local economy, according to Bruce Wright, the associate vice president for University Research Parks.

The UA is recognized as a major research university with research expenditures at more than $6 million, according to Wright. Since the first Innovation Day, Wright said he has seen an increase in faculty and students who engage in research and sees that as an opportunity.

“Innovators tend to be really interesting people,” Wright said. “We use the phrase ‘They’re taking the leading edge’ and they really are. They’re looking at how to solve world problems, how to tear down barriers, how to take risks.”

Aside from highlighting student and faculty research and technology work, Innovation Day is an opportunity for students from the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship in the Eller College of Management to showcase their business plans.

Madison Carroll, a senior studying business management, entrepreneurship and nutrition, is the general manager of her team’s venture “WellSpark Health.” The venture goes into local businesses and creates a customized health and wellness program that will help lower health insurance premiums and increase employee productivity.

Carroll said she hopes that encouraging employers to become interested in wellness programs will get their employees interested and result in the idea spreading the idea.

“I think the one thing about health and wellness is that it’s contagious,” Carroll said.

Initially, Carroll’s team had an idea for an application to enable food deliveries at specific airport gates. After speaking to someone at the Tucson International Airport, they realized their idea wasn’t feasible, she said. That sent them back to the beginning stages of planning. The team has been playing catch up for a while, Carroll added.

“It’s a part of being an entrepreneur; you’re always changing and there’s always something new,” Carroll said.

Getting to a level of familiarity with the venture and being able to speak comfortably about it is the main test of Innovation Day. Carroll and her team will be presenting their ideas at the event.

“We’ve worked on this idea since August, so it’s really time to shine,” Carroll said.

Antonia Tichindelean, a senior studying business management and entrepreneurship, is the general manager for a website aimed at helping people reach their dreams.

Similar to pinterest, bucketlive.com offers a place for people to create a bucket list and discuss their dreams. Communities for each dream will connect users to people with similar dreams. Users will also be able to get advice from people who have experience or from experts on how to achieve them.

The major challenge was taking their “complex idea” and figuring out how to make it a reality and launch the website.

“You can’t just run if you can’t walk,” said Max Cutler, a senior studying finance and entrepreneurship.

Though this will be the team’s first time presenting at a trade show, Cutler said their previous presentations over the past six months in class and to investors have prepared them for Innovation Day.

Cutler said he hopes people see that their site is fun and innovative. The team is passionate not only about the idea, but about helping people, according to Cutler.

“Ideally, we’d love to help people accomplish their bucket list dreams,” Cutler said. “It’s not just a presentation, it’s almost like a lifestyle.”


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