Students Help Design a Brighter Future

suny poly design challengeAssistant Professor of Technology Management Robert Edgell recently took a group of four SUNY Poly students to Philadelphia to take part in “Design Challenge,” an annual civic innovation competition that turns student solutions into community action. This year’s event, hosted by the Center for Design and Innovation at Temple University focused on reducing littering along North and South Broad Street, known as the main spine of Philadelphia. SUNY Poly students Stacey Smith of Westmoreland, Cory Hurlbut of Remsen, Ari Levy of Niskayuna and John Pasho of Utica joined other college and high school students to create new ideas on tackling Philadelphia’s litter problem.

“For me, it was a learning experience,” said Hurlbut. “It’s a whole different culture in the city as opposed to growing up in rural upstate New York. I’m not used to seeing the litter and the number of homeless people in the streets. It was a huge culture shock to me.”

Edgell says Smith was a driving force in getting SUNY Poly students involved and energized to take part in the 2014 Design Challenge.

“Stacey was leading the charge to get everyone on board and organized,” Edgell said. “She drove the car with students to Philadelphia and back. She organized meetings and did a lot of the work.”

The students worked for five hours, coming up with their ideas and how they were going to be implemented to tackle Philadelphia’s littering problem.

“What’s done in theory and what’s done in practice are two very different things, so to put things into practice was a great experience,” said Levy. “It was more than coming up with a business plan. It was designing a way to envelop a new way of thinking among a mass of people.”

More than a dozen judges representing city agencies, non-profit organizations, local businesses and the community evaluated proposed solutions based on their sustainability, stakeholder worth and viability.

EdgellandStudentsFeb2014The idea and presentation that impressed the judges enough to warrant first-place distinction was a solution called “Waste Warriors.” Created by Cory Hurlbut’s team, the concept includes a game, app and data collector aimed to empowering citizens, starting when they are young adults, to take more ownership over cleanliness within their neighborhoods.

“They would gain points, which can be redeemed for prizes, for the more photos and videos they take of themselves and friends picking up trash,” Hurlbut explained. “When those pictures are taken and posted, the location of the photo would be marked on a map and the city then sees the locations and knows what areas they need to focus their resources on.”

As natives of the Mohawk Valley, Hurlbut and Smith said they would love to see the type of initiatives they came up with and the methods they did so be brought to the local area to tackle problems close to home.

“Stacey and I have lived here our whole lives,” Hurlbut said. “When you bring new people to the table, you bring new ideas in. People can sometimes get stuck in the old mindset and lose perspective when you cling to old ideas.”

Edgell says he hopes to host a similar event at SUNY Poly with a focus on the Mohawk Valley.

“Bringing a challenge like this to our area would be perfect because you have people coming from the outside bringing in their perspective and that increases the potential,” Smith said. “So, just like the ideas created in Philadelphia, even after the people from outside leave, those ideas they brought with them or created continue and hopefully grow. I think that’s what’s needed.”

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