Students tackle MindSumo challenge

MindSumo Logo

Students enrolled in the College of Business and Economics' (COBE) fall semester entrepreneurship and innovation course faced an interesting task: wrestle with questions posed by MindSumo challenge.

No pushing or shoving was required, but there was a lot of heavy lifting, figuratively speaking, when it came to research and analysis.

MindSumo plays host to numerous questions online from real companies, many of which are among the Fortune 500. Those questions are part of challenges that ask college students from around the world to evaluate complex questions about the company and offer detailed, well-researched solutions.

"This is a good way for companies to pick the brains of college students," said Management Associate Professor Steve Childers, who made MindSumo one of the many projects he assigned in the Management 250 class throughout the semester.

Jasmine Aguirre, Daniella Burnor and Jeremiah Mills tangled with a question posed by U.S. Bank about beacon technology, which can be used by retail or other venues to detect where a customer is at any given moment. The company asked for suggestions about how to make beacons more useful and less annoying.

After a few days of brainstorming and some careful research, the group devised a couple of ideas: identify customers by a number instead of name, and to "interact with iBeacon through an app," Aguirre said.

"This will allow customers to have a preference on how many notifications they would like to receive as well as what they want to receive," said Aguirre, a senior management major from Roanoke. "If the customer is going to the store to buy milk and only milk, they aren't going to want to receive a notification about clothing coupons."

With tight deadlines looming from MindSumo, the group quickly but thoroughly began collecting research on market conditions, stakeholders' interest and the types of businesses that would find their ideas useful.

When finished, the team submitted their solution. Company representatives examined and judged the reports and picked winners based on creativity, relevance and feasibility.

After a few weeks of waiting, the group learned they had scored a 10 out of 10 in the judging process and were declared a winner in the challenge.

"We were honestly surprised that out of possibly hundreds upon hundreds of submissions to the beacon challenge on MindSumo that our team had a winning solution," Aguirre said.

For their winning entry, the group was awarded $150.

Aguirre's group wasn't the only MindSumo winner from Childers' class. A group made up of Taylor Hildebrand, Chloe Hughes and DeJune Robinson took on a challenge from Toyota, asking about the future of autonomous vehicles. They received an honorable mention for their submission.

"I think MindSumo is a great website that can give wonderful opportunities to students to help solve problems and learn from the research they do for real companies," said Hughes, a design management major from Roanoke. "It was humbling to have won anything with Toyota, and I'm proud of my group for putting in the work."

They, too, won a cash prize.

But the real prize, Aguirre and Hughes agreed, is the experience and career preparation MindSumo provided.

"I think for us, the real prize was not the monetary reward, but an impressive talking point in our future job interviews," Aguirre said,

When Childers considered MindSumo for his class, he had his students' futures in mind. "I hope they build this into their portfolios when they go to seek employment," Childers said. "I think this is something employers are going to want to talk about it, especially when Toyota has voted you one of the top entries in the world."

Childers has students in his spring semester class involved in MindSumo, too.

"I'm hoping they learn a process. They have to learn that ideas are fine, but ideas alone don't mean much without the research and the understanding of the context in which the ideas will be implemented," Childers said. "In the fall semester, we had a very tangible, worthwhile project to learn entrepreneurship process with.

Childer's noted how MindSumo fits into the COBE's focus on innovation and analytics.

"That's exactly what this project requires," he said. "It provides validity and value to what we're doing in COBE."

Feb 5, 2016