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Students Learn Innovation Challenge Mystery Object: Water Bottles

Contact: Jesse Moriarity, 581-1427
George Manlove, 581-3756

ORONO — How many ways can you send a message or create a new value-added product with a plastic water bottle? That’s precisely what more than a dozen student teams at the University of Maine will ponder over the next few days as part of the 2008 Global Entrepreneurship Week through Nov. 19.

They’re now off and running in an international competition stemming from Stanford University and spanning the globe. College students from at least 55 institutions from 12 countries are participating in the Web-based Global Innovation Tournament, which starts with the question, “How would you change the world with an everyday object?”

The challenge is to create uncommon new uses for everyday objects like post-it notes, rubber bands, and now, plastic water bottles. On Wednesday, evening more than 30 students gathered at UMaine’s Foster Innovation Center — which is coordinating participation by UMaine students — to discover that the mystery object to be the center of this year’s creativity and innovation is the ubiquitous water bottle.

By Monday, Nov. 17, student teams must come up with an idea, make a 2-3-minute video demonstrating and explaining it, and upload it to a YouTube website, where judges at Stanford will select the best.

Of the UMaine entries, a panel of UMaine judges will select the top videos for a screening party at 7 p.m. at Foster Innovation Center on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Prizes will be awarded, including one for a best-video audience pick, according to Jesse Moriarity, coordinator of UMaine’s Foster Student Innovation Center. The evening may ceremoniously play out like Emmy awards night in Hollywood, she adds.

Moriarity says the contest, which UMaine became a part of this year, has generated enthusiasm, excitement and already a sense of creative thinking among students.

“I would anticipate that we would get around 12 or so videos,” says Moriarity. “I have heard some great ideas; obviously some sort of sustainability or green-themed project comes to mind for a lot of folks. We’ve heard about art projects and home-decor items, as well as ‘message in a bottle’ ideas, and also using water bottles as a construction material.

“The cool thing is that they can use any materials they’d like with the water bottles and Stanford has said that ‘the interpretation of the object (water bottles) is pretty wide open — any quantity, size, color, material, shape, with our without water, etc.,’” she says.

Videos of previous winners are available on Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Week Web page. Winning creations have included: rubber bands used to identify locally grown produce in grocery stores; a rubber band-link jump rope; a giant rubber band frame system on which students attach their “secrets” anonymously; an infomercial parody about an elastic band product to prevent shoe laces from becoming untied; and short dramas about capital punishment and about condom use.

Information about the contest, related Web links and the Foster Student Innovation Center are available on the center’s website.

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