The Innovation of our Youth: Promising Ideas at the IoT Olympiad

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By Will Tarter

When OneCommunity first learned of the Cisco Young Women’s IoT Global Challenge, we were really excited that a global player like Cisco was putting so much emphasis on encouraging girls to participate in shaping the future of the Internet of Things.  As the leader in fiber optic technology, OneCommunity is uniquely positioned to advance the conversation of the Internet of Things in Northeast Ohio, as well as raise awareness of the Cisco competition.  We immediately reached out to community partners with the idea of doing a thought competition for girls from throughout Northeast Ohio, and the Cleveland Young Women’s IoT Innovation Olympiad was born.  The title sponsors for the Olympiad were BlueBridge Networks and Case Western Reserve University.  We also appreciated the corporate support of OEConnection and CBC Magazine.

When we created the registration page, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  We had never done an event like this before, and we weren’t sure what the community would think of an event like this without precedent.

The response was overwhelming.  We had over twice as many girls sign up as was initially expected!

When the first day of the Olympiad arrived, the air was filled with excitement and anticipation as the Olympiad got underway.  The girls had a chance to connect with a team of company executives from Cisco, who were located in California, over an ultra-high-definition video connection called Telepresence.  The girls had the chance to ask questions from them and other experts at the event, where they learned about the current application of the Internet of Things today in various industries including Healthcare, Transportation, Education and others.

The next day was when the girls were placed into teams and encouraged to brainstorm problems and possible solutions.  Mentors were on-hand to help the girls refine their initial thoughts and encourage them to think outside the box!  The ideas that were generated by the idea were rich in originality and it was amazing to see them bounce ideas off each other.

The event participants then  broke out into two groups for the panel discussions.  One pan was for the Olympiad participants and other for the parents and members of the public.  Both panels explained the importance of women to the advancement of technology in the coming years.

Panel #1 was a panel of organizational leaders who are actively working to advance the cause of women in the technology field, entitled “Meet a Panel of Women Who Are Changing the World Through Technology.” Moderated by JJ DeGeronimo from Tech Savvy Women, the panel consisted of Nichelle McCall, CEO of BoldGuidance, Stephanie Takai, CEO, Innovative Devices Inc. and Rachel Wilkins Patel, Founder, HER Ideas in Motion.

Panel #2 was for Parents and the Public entitled “Why Women Should Consider a College Major in the Internet of Things and related disciplines.” Moderated by Courtney DeOreo, Administrator of the Ohio RITE Board, the panel consisted of Kelly Zelesnik, Dean of Engineering Technologies, Lorain Community College, Dr. Monique Wilson, Executive Director, Center for Information Technology Training, Corporate College, a Division of Cuyahoga Community College, Dr. Alexis Abramson, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, CWRU and Z. Meral Ozsoyoglu, Professor of Computing, CWRU.

The girls then reconvened to prepare their pitches to present before the judges.  Each team had 3 minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges, much like the “Shark Tank” television show.  The judges were Ian Charnas, Manager of ThinkBox, the “makers lab” at Case Western Reserve University, Kelly Zelesnik, Dean of Engineering Technologies, Lorain Community College, Kevin Goodman, Managing Director and Partner, BlueBridge Technologies, Pam Hlavin, University Webmaster, Case Western Reserve University and Bethany Halusker, Software Engineer, OEConnection.

There were 14 team presentations pitching their ideas to a panel of judges. The top four teams took home cash prizes:

1st Place of $1000: “Marketplace Shopping App” by Sasha Desberg and Katie Arendt
2nd Place of $500: “Sensor-Based Verbal Communication App” by Alyssa Spencer, Eliana Good and Tarini Singh
3rd Place of $250: “Mood & Anxiety Sensing Mental Health Music App” by Chamielle Burton, Tameka Coleman, Ana Spates and Taylor Nunley
4th Place of $250: “Universal Translation App” by Alanis Chew and Carli Sebest

Overall, the program was a tremendous success.  Parents, students and community members alike were excited to see an event like this come together.  The overwhelming message that we heard was “What’s next?”  We are working on the next step in the process of imagining the Internet of Things, how to turn ideas into concepts, and concept into reality.  Stay tuned, as the best it yet to come!

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