THE ROAD TO INVENT OREGON
Student Teams at Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College Get Ready for Statewide Innovation Competition
Meet the students and faculty sparking innovation in the Rogue Valley!
This summer, two teams from Southern Oregon University make their way to Invent Oregon, a statewide competition dedicated to showcasing student-driven inventions. The program grants each competing team up to $2,500 to transform their ideas into prototypes, providing participants with invaluable experience in creative development and commercialization.
At the Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge finals, 17 teams from across the state will have the opportunity to compete for $30,000 in cash prizes, including SOU’s Drop Skate Shoes (Steven Minich) and SoundSpyder immersive earphones (Hayden Jennings and Tanner Smith).
“Invent Oregon levels the playing field for student innovators.” said Abigail Van Gelder, the director of Invent Oregon and the Portland State University Center of Entrepreneurship. “Through grants, funds, workshops, and mentorship, we give students across the state a runway to bring their ideas into reality and see themselves as problem solvers.”
For SOU’s finalists, the journey to the Invent Oregon finals began in COMM424: Creative Entrepreneurship in Winter 2023. Taught by Professor of Media Innovation Erik Palmer, COMM424 takes students through a series of pitches in the spirit of a tech startup, followed by a series of activities entailed in prototyping and validating the proposal with real potential users or customers. The course concludes with a campus pitch competition called Raider Demo Day, and the top teams qualify to advance in the Invent Oregon competition.
In March, the students in COMM424 also participated in the inaugural Southern Oregon Innovation Jam, a one-day event co-hosted by Invent Oregon, Rogue Community College, and Southern Oregon University.
SOU and RCC students completed a one-day design sprint. The sprint method breaks the creative development process down into five steps — map, sketch, decide, prototype, and test. Throughout the day, the teams also received input and direction from a group of advisors, giving them a chance to discuss their ideas with accomplished industry professionals.
The competing students now eagerly await the chance to show their skills in the Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge finals on June 22 in Portland.
“The whole experience has been phenomenal,” said Minich. “The Invent Oregon team takes care of students and provides so many tools and resources to build an entrepreneur’s skillset, from networking to knowledge from industry insiders, to mentors and not to mention funding. I would highly recommend this opportunity to any potential student or current student. It all starts with stepping out of your comfort zone and authentically trying your best.”
Story by Ripley Pierotti, Community Manager for the Communication, Media & Cinema Program at Southern Oregon University.