WCU students compete in event combining innovation, environmentalism

Twenty-five Western Carolina University student teams are among a total of 578 Western North Carolina college students participating in Juicy Ideas, a collegiate competition that challenges students to combine entrepreneurship with environmental responsibility.

A competition designed to tap students’ imagination, innovation and collaboration, Juicy Ideas asks students to create value out of an everyday throwaway item and communicate a message of environmental responsibility within a 10-day period. The competition revealed the throwaway item – plastic bottles – during a live webcast from the Carolina Connect Conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville on Sept. 11.

The 169 WNC student teams, composed of three to five members, document their experiences on video, which they will upload on YouTube for judging. Videos will be judged in five areas: originality and creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation, environmental responsibility, critical thinking skills, and team building and leadership.

“Participation in the competition provides students with the opportunity to experience a competitive challenge against students from other universities, both regionally and nationally,” said Louis Buck, Wesley R. Elingburg Distinguished Professor of Business Innovation and director of WCU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The Juicy Ideas competition also affords them the chance to compete for financial and experiential benefits.”

WCU students involved in the competition already are brainstorming ideas and planning their strategies. “I feel like I’m part of a really creative team,” said Aaron Long, a junior from Hickory majoring in psychology at WCU. “We’re currently brainstorming, but once we begin filming, we want to capture the entire process, from every failure to every success. I think this competition will teach us that everything can be turned into something useful, even commonplace pieces of trash.”

The WCU teams are competing for best video from Western North Carolina. The prize package for this award includes $5,000 in scholarship money to be divided among the winning team’s members. The winning WNC team also will have the chance to compete with other regional winners for the grand prize of spending the day at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Other WNC teams are from Appalachian State University, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, Brevard College, Caldwell Community College, Haywood Community College, Isothermal Community College, Mayland Community College, McDowell Community College, Southwestern Community College, University of North Carolina at Asheville and Western Piedmont Community College.

“Students will have to think outside the box and focus on a time-sensitive goal concurrently,” said Buck. “They should try to stretch beyond what they already know and channel their imagination into a productive use for a very ordinary throwaway item, which is a lot more difficult than it sounds.”

For more information about WCU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, contact Louis Buck by telephone at (828) 227-3796 or by e-mail at lbuck@wcu.edu.