Take two for the win

2018 Innovation Challenge Weekend
Isha and sushanth singh

When are two individuals a strong enough duo to win a challenge that normally requires a team of four or five?  Answer: when the dynamic duo is Isha and Sushant Singh, two graduate students at the University of Bridgeport. 

Though the educational and career paths of the husband-wife duo seem divergent, their skill-sets served up a winning combination during the 2018 Innovative Challenge Weekend, which was held this fall at Fairfield University. “We each contributed about 20 hours of work during the weekend and really became immersed in the project,” Isha, an MBA student with a concentration in design thinking, said.

The competition serves to tap into the brilliant minds of university students throughout Connecticut to help local businesses with either creating a commercial application for intellectual property or developing a creative marketing campaign for a new or improved product.

The Singhs, who received a monetary award for their project proposal, presented their ideas to Checkmate Digital of New Haven, Connecticut, their Innovation Challenge Weekend client. According to the company’s website, Checkmate Digital, is a product strategy and design partner for B2B companies.

“We focused on an interdisciplinary solution that combined my engineering skills with Isha’s problem solving skills through the design-thinking process,” Sushant, a PhD student in Computer Engineering explained. “The multi-layered database architecture will enable more effective interactions between the client and the talent (students with varied skill sets).” 

Checkmate’s proposed match-up systems works as follows: university students, with skill sets ranging from graphic design to finance, are matched up with clients who are in need of such individuals who can help solve their challenges as start-ups. This mutually beneficial collaboration also helps students by expanding their portfolios.
Isha applied her design-thinking mindset and the foundational knowledge acquired from her MBA classes to the task at hand while Sushant put his technological skills to work in designing the backend of the program.

Sushant has previously worked with AMD, a chip design giant, where he designed processors for major gaming consoles like Sony PlayStation and Microsoft XBOX. 
Isha, a former entrepreneur who hopes to be one again in the future, owned a silver jewelry manufacturing business. “I believe my niche is project management and business development. It is my passion to solve business problems,” she said.

 “At first, we were not certain as to how we would feel about our specific project and how it would go given that the two of us made up the entire team. But the experience was great, and we were pleased with the results and what we learned. The challenge was definitely worth the time and effort,” Isha said. 

The annual challenge was spearheaded by Elena Cahill, director of the University of Bridgeport’s Ernest C. Trefz School of Business, in 2017. “Students learn best in experiential learning environments that provide opportunities to help solve real-world challenges in collaborative and creative ways. The Launch weekend solves stakeholders’ problems by providing fresh industry insight from students with progressive ideas. In turn, students benefit greatly from experiential opportunities where they can design solutions to real world problems,” Cahill said.

Four companies sponsored challenges in the 2018 competition. Interdisciplinary teams are mostly composed of product designers, engineers, graphic and web designers, marketers and customer researchers, entrepreneurs, and more.

Other schools that participated in the 2018 competition, in addition to the University of Bridgeport, include Wesleyan University, University of Connecticut, Fairfield University, Quinnipiac University, University of New Haven, Scared Heart University, Connecticut College, and Housatonic College.

Innovation Challenge Weekends are organized by the CT Consortium of Entrepreneurship Educators, an affiliate of the Entrepreneurship Foundation. Cahill serves on the organization’s Board.