Student ideas become reality at Innovation Quest workshop

Rich Dino gives the second installment of a series of Innovation Quest Workshops and discusses the process of applying to the iQ competition in the UConn School of Business Lounge. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

Having an idea and turning it into something real is the premise behind the world’s greatest achievements, from jets that fly around the world to electric cars. At the second Innovation Quest workshop at the University of Connecticut School of Business lounge, students began to make some of their ideas into a reality.

Students in attendance at the workshop discussed how to go from having an idea to producing a prototype, from how to think entrepreneurially to building a team and what things to focus on in discussions with mentors and advisers. Over the rest of the semester, students will be working together and competing to continue developing their ideas.

“We are in the position to help you find out what your needs are,” said Rich Dino, an associate professor of the management department of the School of Business and the director of the innovation quest programs. “If you’re here to test your ideas and identify opportunity in the marketplace that is the motivation you should have, not if you’re going to make money at the end of the rainbow. Before the money comes to you, it’s a lot work, getting knocked down and getting back up.”

Dino presented a slideshow and lectured while engaging students with riddles and puzzles. One such riddle was a grid of a squares where he asked how many there were. Many guessed 21; however, it turned out that the alleged squares were shaped in a just a way to be rectangles, making the answer zero.

These riddles were meant to show students that there are many ways to think about and approach problems and challenges. To be good entrepreneurs, Dino explained, students must think in unconventional and creative ways.

Matt Cremins, a UConn alumni who earned his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering, spoke with attendees via Skype. Cremins is the CEO of a company called VODA, which came about from the Innovation Quest competition and workshop process.

Cremin talked about prototyping and explained how he found the niche in a market that enabled his company to grow by creating a product called a smart well that looks like the Coca Cola Freestyle machine, and is used in businesses across the country, including at Mooyah Burgers and Fries here in Storrs.

It attaches to any water source, filters it to spring water and can be customized into any flavor. Cremin also spoke about proof of concept, alpha prototypes, beta testing and most importantly, the point where you have paying customers.

“I knew Matt Cremins last year and he talked about his process. He seemed confident and he mentioned to me what IQ did for him and how his simplistic idea has evolved and it makes me confident in my own,” said Peter Vannorsdall, a fourth-semester mechanical engineering major.


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.