Twenty-five Ball State students were among more than 500 Indiana undergraduate and graduate students who took part in the TechPoint Summer Opportunities for Students Challenge (S.O.S.). The challenge offered marketable solutions for Indiana businesses, nonprofit, tourism, sports, transportation, and health organizations to help them weather the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Students were grouped into 90 teams and charged with developing a product and marketing plan in one of nine categories. Nine teams, composed of 44 students from 11 Indiana-based colleges and universities, emerged with top honors.
From Ball State, Kayla Smith was on a team of finalists who won for Best Solution in the Restaurants and Small Businesses category. A senior telecommunications major with minors in marketing and African American studies, Kayla said she participated as a software developer on a multi-disciplinary team that “created a sales calculator for these businesses to use now and even after COVID-19.”
The team’s web-based platform, INSIGHT, enables restaurants and small businesses to input expenses and revenue data to adequately suggest new prices for products and services. Its user-friendly platform calculates estimates based on the current changes to the market and allows the user to interact with data through visualization.
Up to the task
Kayla’s skills fit well with the demands of the task. “I have always had an interest in doing the behind the scenes work, whether that means through media with a camera and a computer or just being a part of a team to create change for the better.” Her multiple interests include editing, marketing, and event planning.
“My goal is to find the place for me where I can hone in on as many of my interests as possible.”
Through June and July, Kayla’s participation in the TechPoint challenge included working remotely 15 hours per week with a group of team members she didn’t know before the challenge to create a go-to-market strategy and product prototype. For her work, she helped to code their platform using Visual Studio Code and GitHub.
Another Ball State participant, Sean Wolfe, is a senior in computer science. Sean and his team worked on a proposal called Checkfirst. The website provides visitors with public health and safety information from Hoosier businesses, and users can review businesses on their level of COVID-19 precaution enforcement.
“The challenge also gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about Indy tech, which I’ve learned to appreciate and love,” said Sean.
Seeing opportunities in Indiana tech
“Originally, I didn’t think Indiana had a lot to offer in terms of tech jobs, but now I understand just how much opportunity there is for me here as a software developer and for anyone who wants to be in tech.”
Sean loved the fact that the TechPoint S.O.S. Challenge allowed him to develop a website “that provides a public service during COVID-19, so this touches on a bunch of our University’s enduring values.”
Students who completed the S.O.S. program received $500 each in addition to the chance at a $25,000 prize purse and virtual presentations to Governor Eric Holcomb and Indiana tech sector leaders. The challenge welcomed undergrad, graduate, or doctoral students. For the project, student teams were assigned “coaches” from a pool of 200 volunteers from the Indiana tech community.
“This is a fantastic idea, and I can’t wait to see what solutions this next generation of talent comes up with,” Gov. Holcomb said prior to the program’s launch. “The S.O.S. Challenge is a tangible example of what makes this state’s tech community so special and why Indiana is the place to be if you want to start or grow a tech company.”
Headquartered in Indianapolis, TechPoint is a nonprofit growth accelerator for Indiana’s tech industry. It brings together the state’s tech companies, philanthropies, government, universities, and talent to create opportunities throughout the state.