Emerson Alumni Hall buzzed with conversation as people pitched futuristic ideas, from autonomous traveling workspaces to solar-powered benches.
UF’s Innovation Academy hosted its 10th annual Summer A Catalyst Showcase, the first in-person one since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Friday. It concluded Innovation in Action, a course all first-year IA students take in Summer A or Summer B.
Students created ways for residents to engage in a 21st century community. They were randomly assigned to 32 teams of four or five students and had five weeks to complete the project.
Innovation Academy operates during Spring and Summer semesters. Students apply to the program before they get accepted to UF. They minor in innovation and choose between 25 majors across eight colleges.
Katelyn Allen, a 19-year-old UF accounting freshman, constructed an autonomous mobile pod serving as a collaborative workspace. Office buildings and classrooms grow gloomy and monotonous, she said, and working in the same space repeatedly hinders creativity.
The pod, made of glass that can be set to be opaque or transparent, would drive around town so those inside can take inspiration from the sites around them.
The group initially thought they lost and was delighted to hear the judges call out their name as they presented the last award of the afternoon: the judges’ choice award.
One group designed a solar-powered, cost-effective activity bench made of recycled materials.
The structure, lined with electrical outlets and outfitted with an overhead awning, would allow people to face each other in conversation.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to sit down on the benches in Gainesville,” Maksym Marek, a 19-year-old computer science freshman said. He said the design would encourage him to get outside more, unlike a regular bus stop bench.
Students were also tasked with improving San Felasco Tech City, a collaborative Alachua community contestants visited prior to the showcase.
Juliana Gomez, an 18-year-old UF journalism freshman created an all-access card for San Felasco Tech city residents, which would enable them to access exclusive events and provide discounts at local businesses. She said they wanted to create connections between residents and businesses, because they seemed disconnected when her group toured. Residents could purchase either a monthly or yearly payment plan.
Students competed for six different awards: the best prototype award, bright idea award, judges’ award, make it happen award, people’s choice award, and power of design award.
Each had its own set of criteria to further encourage students to enhance different aspects of their projects.
The IA freshmen found new ways to incorporate technology into the future, and a fresh set of ideas will be presented when another group of students take the course in Summer B.