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News & Stories: 2009-10

What's the big idea?
November 12, 2009

An innovator walks into an oversized office at the top of a large corporate skyscraper. He walks up to the oak desk in the center of the room and pulls out a sketchpad. A powerful CEO and investor turns to face him: “You have five minutes.”Big Idea contest promotes student innovation

That’s the idea behind Calvin’s own Big Idea Contest. Calvin students with their own ideas for products and innovations can bring their creativity head-to-head with one another in a competition of innovation and entrepreneurship. All students from all departments are encouraged to join.

The intent of the Big Idea Contest is to promote creativity and entrepreneurship among the student body, said Michael Harris, executive director of the Enterprise Center at Calvin (ECC): “The contest is really meant to inspire and encourage a culture of innovation among our students.”

In a two-round competition, students must first submit a written proposal, either digital or hard copy, to the ECC. After the entries have been collected by the deadline of November 20, 2009, four finalists will be selected to give five-minute presentations on December 4, 2009, to compete for a $200 grand prize.

The ECC exists primarily to protect intellectual property at Calvin: to help busy professors obtain patents and copyrights on their research, to provide some external consulting, and to help students develop their own ideas while they are at Calvin. “Innovation is one of the primary drivers of economic development,” Harris said.

Two for One!

Calvin’s Big Idea Contest is one of two competitions Calvin students may take part in this semester. Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is also hosting the Regional Idea Pitch Competition. Calvin students will join students from Aquinas, Cornerstone and other colleges in West Michigan in a competition of 90-second “elevator pitches” for $4000 in prize money.

With only 90 seconds with an audience, the speeches focus less on explaining an idea, but rather advocating that an idea is worth explaining. “The focus is to get another meeting,” said Calvin business professor Bob Medema, “where you can sit down and go into more detail.”

Act now!

One Calvin sophomore, Jon Rasmussen, is competing in both contests. As a transfer student from Grand Valley, he has seen and been a part of entrepreneurial student endeavors before. “I hope this raises student awareness about entrepreneurship at Calvin,” he said.

Rasmussen has already begun developing a plan for a student organization at Calvin with a focus on entrepreneurship. The organization will be composed of students who develop and critique each others’ business plans:

"I feel entrepreneurism has never been brought up at Calvin,” he said. “I want to bring an entrepreneur mindset to Calvin.”

Medema, who has started his own businesses, also wants to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset. “It gives them an amazing opportunity to use their talents and gifts,” he said. “There’s few limits on what they can do to use their creativity.”

But wait, there’s more!

The Big Idea Contest, along with Calvin’s annual BizPlan Competition in the spring and the regional event, offer Calvin students so many opportunities to develop their creativity with a business mindset.

"God didn’t create us to get lost in the woodwork,” Medema said. “He created us to change the world. And that takes energy and enthusiasm, and we’re trying to kindle those sort of thoughts or attributes.”

 “One thing my dad always told me,” Medema added. “God gave you a brain. Use it.”

~by Cloud Cray, communications and marketing

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