The Summer Innovation Challenge is part of an ideation competition series. The goal of the Innovation Challenge program is to foster real-life solutions to specific challenges in our communities. During the challenge, students and teams use their creativity to develop an innovative product, service, or program and present their ideas to be judged by a panel of innovative and entrepreneurial experts. This summer’s challenge focused on helping K-12 organizations deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. When K-12 schools reopen after the shelter-in-place restriction is lifted, these organizations will have a variety of new challenges to overcome. Some challenges might include impacts from new regulations, changes to culture and social attitudes, and changes to resources and technology. In this challenge, students search for new problems that K-12 schools face after reopening and design a unique solution in the form of a product, technology, service, or program that meets the identified organizational need.
The first place winner was CSUSM FEMBA student Amber Perez with her project, Jocelyn Approach, “founded to assist our community’s children, families and educators to succeed in the era of virtual education by creating a liaison between parents and teachers for the empowerment of our youth.” The inspiration for the project came from her first hand experience during the pandemic managing her full-time job, her children's education and her Masters program at CSUSM. Realizing the impact COVID-19 was having on widening the achievement gap for young students, she was compelled to help. Feedback from her children's schools enforced the need and success of the project. Amber's passion for the Jocelyn Approach has continued beyond the challenge as she has recently applied for a non-profit status and has received a FEMBA Master's Experience team to continue the momentum.
The runner up was senior Business Management student, Jason Beyer with his project, Tootle, a start-up concept that provides virtual field trips. Jason identified that, due to COVID-19, students lost the social component of group fieldtrips, noting that “students can no longer socialize in the traditional classroom settings”. Initially targeting the 6th grade audience, Jason created a week-long curriculum with activities that would focus around a particular virtual field trip. The cameraman, Joe Pickering, who is a CSUSM Art, Media and Design major, would go to the site and provide live feed presentations by the site docent, a tour and end with a Q&A session. Working closely with the community, Jason has been able to customize the field trips based on the specific class interests with popular requests being the Mighty Awesome Escape Room, Palomar Hospital, San Marcos Sheriff Station, CSUSM Sports Center and Advanced Veterinary Care of San Elijo. Jason is confident that Tootle will provide the virtual solution needed by local schools as the future possibility of extended virtual education remains.