The officers of the EHS Entrepreneurship Club entered The Microsoft Innovation Challenge and took home the win. The challenge: What product or solution can be added to the Microsoft Stack to help solve the hybrid work paradox? 16 other schools across Texas competed and they had 30 minutes to come up with a plan. The challenge was conducted virtually and judged virtually.
Catherine MacConnell '22, Sean MacConnell '22, Stephanie Nelson '22, Courtney Callahan '22, and Wade Arntzen '22 pitched a virtual conference room that makes collaboration and inclusivity a priority in the way we now work. Some features of their proposed application include a transportable interactive experience, surround screen, and spatial audio that gave the feeling in an online meeting that you were sitting right next to the other participants. This application would offer a full VR experience without the headset and include the ability to translate languages making international business more efficient, emoticons that include skin tones and various reactions, a caption with gender pronouns, and interactive collaborative sticky notes that you can drag and drop.
For winning the Challenge, these budding entrepreneurs were rewarded with a laptop and $100 of seed money for a future competition.
They worked by playing off each other's ideas on a shared Google doc, honing in on the most important words, and being as concise as possible because they had a very short time limit within which to present their ideas.
Sean explained, "We brainstormed for 15 minutes, then wrote and practiced with timing to see what we needed to change. We made edits to make it shorter and kept repeating the process. One thing that was great about this competition was we didn't have to be realistic at all. The prompt said to think about the most advanced thing we could do.
Courtney adds, "We all immediately had the idea of something with VR and kept working together to get more specific with the features the tech could provide."
"It helped," Catherine says, "that the challenge posed no limits to our creativity."
"We could come up with something convenient, or outer-worldly," Wade said. Wade believes their collaboration is what helped them win the challenge. "We all had very different ideas, thought differently, but ended up with something that worked."
The group got together at the beginning of last year, their junior year. The club was started by Stephanie and Courtney. Stephanie is CEO of the company they are creating, Courtney is co-president, and the others have more supportive roles like board members.
Stephanie adds, "A lot of people think you have to have realistic solutions and sometimes that's not true and you can use your imagination to create. People can confine themselves, but you don't have to when trying to create something."