“Ninja Shoes” Win Big at UT Dallas Innovation Opportunity Camp

Photo by Ken Sharp
Caleb Clarke of Plano Senior High School was a member of Surge, the second-place Innovation Opportunity Camp team that created the Sonic Hair Dryer.

Teens Learn Entrepreneurship, Generate New Business Ideas

“Ninja Shoes,” a cordless hair dryer and a “Wireless Waitress” took top honors this year at a UT Dallas summer camp where high school students earned cash prizes for creating and presenting winning business ideas to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs.

The Ninja Shoes, children’s shoes with interchangeable soles for a variety of applications, took first place and $500 in the competition at the close of the two-week Innovation Opportunity Camp. The Sonic Hair Dryer, a quiet, cordless hair dryer using advanced technologies, came in second and earned its team of teen creators $250. Coming in third and earning $150, the Wireless Waitress was a mobile application designed for ordering food from a restaurant.

Photo by Ken Sharp
Solutionz team members (left to right) Emily Marucci of The Hockaday School, Mijae Kim of Coppell High School, and Anand Shah and Aleef Ali of Plano Senior High School celebrate their first-place win for creating “Ninja Shoes.” (Team member Dalyn Hughes is not pictured.)

The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at UT Dallas hosts the annual camp, and IIE Executive Director Joseph Picken observed that “the quality of work product produced by the high school students this year was outstanding — the best we’ve seen since we started the camp four years ago.”

Photo by Shane Kok, IOC 2011 camper
On a tour of Texas Instruments’ DLP Showroom, campers — some wearing 3-D glasses — watched 3-D TV and other new projection technologies.

Designed to stimulate innovation, creativity and interest in innovation-related careers in science, technology and business, Innovation Opportunity Camp brought together 28 students this year. As part of the camp, students learned how to manage a business by playing a business-simulation game. They learned entrepreneurship basics and presentation skills in sessions taught by UT Dallas faculty and outside professionals. They took “innovation in action” tours to locally headquartered businesses, such as Texas Instruments, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent. They had daily interaction with entrepreneurs, scientists and investors, and engaged in a wide variety of team-building exercises and competitions.

The camp highlight involved the students dividing into teams and progressively developing a unique business idea. With the cash prizes and the spirit of competition as incentives, each team worked with an experienced mentor to create and present a business concept to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs.

“Awesome camp. It was definitely eye-opening and fun,” one 2012 camper remarked.

Another said that the camp “really showed me what it takes to start and maintain a business.”

“The camp represents an amazing collaborative effort between the students, mentors, faculty, staff, and business professionals and corporations in the North Texas region,” said Madison Pedigo, associate director for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programs at UT Dallas.“We couldn’t run this camp without support from our partners.”

Local entrepreneur and organizer of Start-Up Weekend Dallas, Brad Anderson, joined the effort as a mentor for the first time this year. “It’s so exciting to see these kids get involved in a camp like this at such a young age,” he said. “I wish the IOC was available to me when I was in high school. Such a well-run program is hard to find.”

Plans are already under way for the 2013 camp, which is preliminarily scheduled for June 17 to June 28, 2013. More information will be available at innovation.utdallas.edu beginning in January 2013.

The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UT Dallas was established in April 2006 as a collaborative initiative of all seven UT Dallas schools: Arts and Humanities; Behavioral and Brain Sciences; Economic, Political and Policy Sciences; Erik Jonsson School Engineering and Computer Science; Interdisciplinary Studies; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; and Naveen Jindal School of Management. The institute’s role is that of a facilitator, catalyst and program — leveraging the power of ideas and technology to create new ventures and add economic, social and cultural value to our community.