Active collaborative learning environments foster better student learning outcomes and provide students with genuine exposure to real-world problem solving, according to Dr. Vahé Heboyan, assistant professor at the College of Allied Health Sciences and the director of Health and Behavioral Economics Research Lab.
Heboyan, along with the Center for Instructional Innovation at Augusta University, has organized an Innovation Challenge Case Study Competition that aims to provide innovative, creative and entrepreneurial solutions for a significant real-world health care challenge that affects the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of patients.
Teams of three to five Augusta University students can register to compete for up to $5,000 in scholarships while offering a creative and innovative solution to the challenge. The competition will run during Spring 2020 and culminate in an authentic Shark Tank-style business pitch competition on April 17, where teams will showcase their innovative solutions, ideas and technologies to a live audience and a panel of esteemed judges.
Student teams can register through the online portal. The deadline for registration is Feb. 7.
The challenge in this competition focuses on solving the significant discomfort, distress and anxiety caused by the use of colostomy bags by patients of all ages all over the world. For some, these bags are temporary in nature, but for the rest, the bags are permanently following them through the rest of their lives. Competition teams will be provided with a framed challenge and guidance in a form of a case study and invited to offer solutions born from imagination, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.
“What we want to do is give students an experience they (don’t always) get in a classroom, where they are doing real-world solving of a real-world problem that not only affects the patient’s quality of life, but potentially sets them up for having a competitive edge when they interview for jobs or if they decide to pursue their own businesses,” Heboyan said.
He said while teams are not required to be interdisciplinary, he hopes they will include students across disciplines to foster creativity and innovation.
This is the first competition of its kind at Augusta University. An introductory session will be held Feb. 12, where the problem will be discussed and further instruction will be given. Throughout the semester, there will be workshops with industry professionals, where students will learn more about the case study topic, innovation, creative problem solving and commercialization. Regular office hours are available for students to consult with key faculty. Students will present their final pitches to a judge panel April 17. In addition to the potential for earning scholarships, students will be given several options for obtaining course credit.
The most important benefit for students: experiential learning.
“This is something they don’t learn in a textbook classroom,” Heboyan said. “(They are also) being part of the real-world solution. It gives them the competitive edge when some of these graduates go to the job market interviews. It’s not about what they learned in the classroom, but also the ability to apply it and solve the problem. This is not an artificial imaginary problem. It’s actually a real-world problem that exists that is not only applicable to Augusta University Medical Center, but it is worldwide.”
Though this is the first such competition for AU, it will not be the last, as Heboyan hopes future competitions will involve community partners who want to tap into the university’s talent pool seeking creative solutions to their own real-world problems.