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12/3/14 - Students present innovative ideas Friday at S3 Challenge

Mississippi State University students who have collaborated across colleges and centers brainstorming for social impact, sustainability and service-learning projects will present their ideas Friday [Dec. 5] during the S3 Innovation Challenge.

The day-long event begins at 8 a.m. and features students competing in three separate challenges, linked by the common goal of promoting outside-the-box solutions that can be marketable and beneficial for the state. To be held in Colvard Student Union, the S3 Innovation Challenge is free and open to all and will feature door prizes and refreshments.

With entrepreneurial guidance from the College of Business, three student teams will take part in the Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge. Sponsored by Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the challenge encourages students across Mississippi to help solve the state's most pressing problems and reach the goals established by Blueprint Mississippi. In addition to the MSU challenge Friday, students teams have competed at the state's other institutions of higher learning. Winners advance to a state competition to be held in March 2015 in Jackson.

The MSU School of Human Sciences has provided leadership for students taking part in a Sustainability Challenge sponsored by Southwire to create sustainable designs or solutions for an industrial byproduct. Individuals and teams will present clothing designs and other products that could be made from a foil laminate material produced as part of Southwire's manufacturing process.

The university's Center for the Advancement of Service-Learning Excellence, also known as CASLE, has facilitated student participation in the Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge. This semester, students have embarked on the first year of what will become four years of innovation competition sponsored by both a $50,000 seed grant from the MSU Extension Service and over $130,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find practical uses for Mississippi's culled sweet potatoes. These potatoes are edible and nutritious but due to their misshapen shape or size, become difficult to sell. A diverse group of students ranging from agricultural and biological engineering majors to food science, nutrition and health promotion majors are proposing potential uses ranging from food products to an ingredient in cosmetics.

"The Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge takes service-learning to a new height," said April Heiselt, CASLE director and associate professor. "During the semester, students learned theories in their academic coursework and through the competition they will apply those theories to practice and address a real issue for Mississippi farmers. Combining three innovation challenges into one event provides a one-stop opportunity for the entire campus to learn about the impressive skills of our students from a variety of academic disciplines."

While student idea pitches for the Blueprint and Sustainability challenges will be open to the public, student ideas for the Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge will be discussed only with contest judges.

A trade show room featuring poster presentations of the various student projects in the Union's Foster Ballroom and a lunch-and-learn panel discussion also are part of the agenda for the S3 Innovation Challenge.

Charles Freeman Jr., an assistant professor of human sciences, said one of the best results of bringing the three challenges together in one S3 event is the collaboration across colleges, centers, multiple industry partners and Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

"We've been able to put together so many different groups and resources on campus to provide opportunities for students to be innovative," Freeman said.

"This event is unique because of the partnerships we have forged to bring this together. Combining agriculture, service-learning, social impact, sustainability, and industry partners to provide unique and promising scholarship opportunities for students showcases the collaboration and teamwork which makes MSU an exciting place to learn and grow," Freeman said.

Eric Hill of MSU's Entrepreneurship Center agreed and emphasized the distinct but parallel missions of each challenge.

"Each challenge involves students taking ideas outside of the classroom and applying them in a marketable way and in a context that extends beyond academics. From that perspective, we have a nice synergy to combine our presentations into one day with a lot of thought-provoking ideas and solutions," Hill said.

In addition to Southwire, IHL, and the USDA, sponsors include Blueprint Mississippi, MSU's Entrepreneurship Center, MSU Extension Service, the Retail Merchandising Center and Cotton Product Development Center, CASLE, the colleges of Business, and Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the School of Human Sciences.

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Allison Matthews | Public Affairs

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