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10 District 3 innovators put their skills to the test

Last week, an interdisciplinary team from Concordia came up with a solution to a pressing world problem in 24 hours
June 4, 2014
By Sara DuBreuil

Alessandra Mantovani
Alessandra Mantovani at 24 Hours of Innovation: "This photo was taken of me 18 hours in, hard at work at 3 a.m. or so."

Twenty-four hours, 20 challenges, one solution — and a two-minute video.

These are the ingredients in 24 Hours of Innovation, a biannual competition that asks more than 1,000 students in 10 countries and five continents to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. The challenges are submitted by businesses; the final pitches are judged by local juries, and by an international jury based in Montreal.

A 10-member team from the District 3 Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship represented Concordia at the marathon event, which was hosted by Montreal’s École de technologie superieure on May 27. It ran concurrently with the three-day commerce and creativity conference C2MTL .

At 9 a.m., the District 3 team chose its challenge — which addressed how commuters share city intersections — and set out to conceive of a solution that it would then illustrate in a short video.

As Diana Horqque, a student in the Department of Design and Computation Arts, explains, their particular challenge felt like a natural fit. “It’s a real problem that we have all experienced at one point or another. We had the skills and the life experiences to be in a good position to find the solution.”

That solution involved three spherical sculptures suspended above intersections. The hypothetical smart spheres — one for cyclists, one for pedestrians and one for motorists — would be equipped with sensors to gather data on the behaviour of commuters, including their interactions. This information would allow researchers to study the activities that really unfold at intersections.

Watch the District 3 team’s two-minute video pitch for 24 Hours of Innovation:

For the Concordians, the day proved long but fruitful.

Eight of the participants were students: Leila Gatera, Diana Horqque, Allan MacDonald, Alessandra Mantovani, German Moreno and Kati Peltola from the Department of Design and Computation Arts; Hamid Khorrami from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; Shahin Vakilinia from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. District 3 staff members Omid Danesh and Robert Dobosz rounded out the team.

While Horqque managed to squeeze in a short nap, most of her colleagues soldiered through the 24 hours without sleep. The team learned quickly that in order to succeed, it would have to collaborate under serious constraints.

“We had to get to know each other under a lot of pressure,” Horqque says. “There were discussions and differing opinions around ideas, but that’s how you innovate. We bonded really quickly.”

The team’s ties to District 3 also proved an advantage.

“Knowing how to work across disciplines is so important,” Horqque says. “We almost always need to look to people from other fields to come up with the best possible solution to any problem.”

District 3 mentor Robert Dobosz agrees.

“To have 10 people significantly impact an outcome goes to show the power of a rich palette of skills being integrated,” he says. “For that to happen in 24 hours is an accomplishment."

The District 3 team ultimately didn't make it into the top three but, Dobosz notes, "We’ll definitely be back — with even more insight going in.”



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