Feb 2017

IdeaFest 2017

In its inaugural event, IdeaFest 2017 brought over a dozen students to The Point at Otterbein to tackle some of the most pressing social issues in Columbus and beyond.

IdeaFest is a weekend-long competition in which enterprising students collaborate in teams, receive guidance from local mentors, and pitch their ideas. To kick off the event, participants brainstormed and posted social problems on the Idea Wall. After a vote, the top ideas were chosen: lack of mental health education, water scarcity, food deserts and lack of access to healthy foods, homelessness, and maternal health.

With 24 hours on the clock, our five teams went to work. Through research, discussions, and lots of whiteboard sketches, each team explored their social issue and iterated on different solutions. There have been previous efforts to address these problems in political and nonprofit sectors, so our participants focused on innovation to create a unique, well-rounded solution. The innovative energy was very present throughout IdeaFest, which brought together students from a variety of backgrounds, majors, class years and experiences.

As the weekend came to a close, each team learned firsthand that ideas need to be communicated well, with clarity and creativity, to be truly understood. Of course, IdeaFest is not just a wonderful opportunity to learn; it’s an exciting competition to determine the best proposal to a powerful problem. On Saturday afternoon, the panel of judges – comprised of educators and business experts – was assembled to hear the pitches from all five teams. Judges were able to ask questions after the pitches, and measure each team based on specific criteria: completeness of plan, creativity, synergy, and impact.

Here’s a glimpse of what the teams proposed:


  • MEME is an effort to educate teachers and their high school students on mental illness – the misconceptions, realities, and ways to help. The workshop uses exercises with self-schemas and other psychological principles to demonstrate how mental health has an impact, but does not define a person.
  • Nobody, a two-step purification system made with sustainable and portable components. The design also includes the ability to generate electricity from the water filtration process, which would be critical to communities after natural disasters, power outages, etc.
  • Empty Pockets, a multi-platform solution to food deserts – and the many consequences of lacking nutrition – in Columbus. First, they plan to use a bus to bring inexpensive, healthy food to neighborhoods where food insecurity is more common. The second component is a community cafe that sells breakfast and lunch, and then opens their kitchen to the public every evening.
  • The American Dream, a solution to chronic homelessness among women and children who are victims of domestic violence. The initiative provides housing, childcare, and educational resources for the members of this community until they can transition to a safe and sustainable lifestyle.
  • YGDV a “Mommy Sirens” product that is provided to expectant mothers to get them to hospitals faster (with ambulance-like sirens and lights) and to communicate their GPS coordinates and medical files to the hospital. This proposal seeks to decrease the amount of births that happen in unsanitary conditions and (unintentionally) outside of hospitals.

Energetic, engaging, and at times emotional, the pitches were a rousing success. Teams presented data, drafted curriculum, created SolidWorks prototypes, wrote business plans, and more. Everyone in attendance knew the judges had a hard decision to make.

MEME, Empty Pockets and the American Dream, scored in the top 3!

The top teams received prizes like iPads, Apple Watches, and cash to turn their idea into a reality. Winner or not, every team at IdeaFest accomplished so much in such a short span of time. Meeting new people, learning about a significant social issue, and pitching to a group of judges… Talk about a productive weekend!

We can’t wait to be a part of the next IdeaFest!