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Friday, September 24, 2021

Innovation Gators: Students share original solutions during Innovation Academy’s Summer A showcase

UF students show off their skills during the showcase by presenting their innovative solutions to support health and wellness for Florida community members

Graphic by Shelby Cotta
Graphic by Shelby Cotta

UF Innovation Academy students are creating solutions to health issues in the form of algae-collecting robots, a mental health support website for teenagers and more. Students had five weeks to complete their health and wellness solutions for the Summer A showcase.

Students who took the Creativity in Action course during the Summer A semester presented their solutions Friday at Catalyst Summer A, a virtual event where IA students shared their ideas with experts and peers in the college and community. The projects addressed the event’s challenge topic that asked for solutions supporting health and wellness for community members in Florida.

Soumia Naeem, a 19-year-old UF psychology freshman, said her favorite thing about the process was working with her classmates and learning about the different ways someone can think when creating a project.

“You never know if any one of the prototypes that were presented today caught one of the judge’s attention, and they want to invest more into it,” she said after the event Friday. “Catalyst could change lives.”

Her five-person team’s presentation was Safe Haven for Teens, a website for providing information and support to teens who struggle with mental health issues — something the group’s members said they can relate to.

About 180 students, divided into 35 teams of about five people each, presented their ideas at the Zoom event.

Innovation Academy academic adviser Lucy Searcy said the ideas presented can have extended impacts on the UF and the entire Gainesville community.

She said the quick-paced project motivated students to collaborate for creating efficient results while they worked to create meaningful and engaging projects.

“Our students come with different backgrounds, experiences and strengths,” she said. “And it’s important to give them an opportunity to collide with one another and brainstorm ideas to help solve important, real-life problems.”

Harmful algae growth in Miami inspired 18-year-old UF psychology freshman Aracelly Valdes to work with her team to find a solution to minimize the overgrowth and help the environment. 

“It lets you think outside of the box,” she said. “There’s no limit. You can do whatever you want if you set your mind to it.”

Her team’s prototype was called the Aquatic Nutrient Regulatory System, a water-treatment robot that works to protect Florida’s drinking water resources and waterways by preventing algae growth, according to the team’s pitch.

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One of her favorite parts of the project was getting to speak with experts about the issue. 

There are six awards for the event: the Bright Idea Award, the Make It Happen Award, the Power of Design Award, the Best Prototype Award, the Judges’ Award and the People’s Choice Award. A video with the winners of the awards will be posted Friday at 3 p.m., Diane Porter-Roberts, the academic coordinator for the Innovation Academy, said during the event.

The Summer B showcase is currently set to be held over Zoom July 30, according to the academy’s website.

Contact Antonia LaRocca at Follow her on Twitter @antoniarlarocca.

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Antonia LaRocca

Antonia LaRocca is a staff writer at The Alligator.

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