In order to promote innovation within the West Michigan community, Grand Valley State University challenged community members to come up with solutions to certain problems. On Thursday, Nov. 30, seven winners were selected for their innovative ideas in the Laker Effect Challenge.
The Laker Effect Challenge is a competition involving GVSU students, faculty and staff members who are tasked with creating an innovative idea that needs funding and helps the community. A panel of judges chose to spread $5,000 among three groups of presenters. An additional $500 was given to the winner of the poster presentation that took place as well.
“These presenters find it tough to get airtime and find it more challenging to get funding for their projects,” said Linda Chamberlain, Meijer endowed chair of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Frederik Meijer Honors College. “They make positive differences in the community and share a similar passion, as well as a ‘common good’ collective that impacts West Michigan.”
Seven groups gave presentations in the Mary Idema Pew Library Multipurpose Room to a crowd of about 100 people. They were given five minutes to explain what their mission was, how funding would help them carry out their goals and the future sustainability of their program.
The audience tuned in to learn about the struggles many minority groups face. The topics ranged from Hispanic groups needing help with physical therapy to illiterate children not being given a chance to read. At the end of the day, only four groups walked away with funding.
The first-place winner of the Laker Effect Challenge was “Moms to Moms Breastfeeding Support.” The presenters were nursing majors Jamie Platt and Kayleigh Kibler, and faculty member Kelli Damstra. They spoke about how African-American mothers have lower breast-feeding rates than Hispanic or white mothers in West Michigan.
With the $3,000, the team can now offer more seminars to families to improve education about breast feeding.
“Establishing a System to Provide Safer Work Environments for Comprenew and Nonprofit Organization Volunteers and Workers” and “Book Bags for Beacon” shared the second-place prize for $1,000 each. The safety group consisted of GVSU students Patrick Lynch, Avery Moore, Eric Bell and Ronald Friedreichsen.
Moore described musculoskeletal disorders, such as tinnitus, carpal tunnel and back pains, that can occur from improper work safety. The group can now provide more safety equipment for companies like Comprenew, which recycles computer parts and works with computer literacy in the Grand Rapids area.
GVSU student Mary Dieterly presented on providing book bags for children. She said the make-or-break point for literacy rates in children is the third grade and that young students need to be able to read by then.
“Together, we can put books into the hands of children who need them most,” Dieterly said.
She explained that her organization, Beacon of Hope, will now be able to supply backpacks filled with two to three books and either crayons or markers. This will supply materials to many of the 60 families that come in for help regulalry.
After the seven groups presented, audience members were able to vote on the poster board competition to choose the one they thought was the most influential. There were four poster boards that covered an array of topics, from battling opioid addiction to improving education. The winner of the $500 poster presentation award was “Heartside Gleaning Initiative Cookbook Printing Project,” led by GVSU’s Brooke Heidenga and Collin Jonkman.
The Heartside neighborhood in downtown Grand Rapids is in poverty, and through the Heartside Gleaning Initiative, Jonkman and Heidenga can help bring in fresh produce from local farmers. They also will be providing free cookbooks with fresh, produce-based recipes.