Inventive ideas abound at IGNITE showcase

IGNITE graphic 2023

A digital banner advertising the 2023 IGNITE Innovation Showcase at Iowa State University. Provided by Student Innovation Center staff.

Creativity and imagination are at the heart of the IGNITE Innovation Showcase, an event fueled by the inspiring work of students. Hosted at the Student Innovation Center May 4-6, the showcase will celebrate budding entrepreneurs and creators from across campus.

The full schedule is on the IGNITE website. From make-and-take prints and glass firing to a dessert-making demonstration and Dolphin Tank presentations -- inspired by the TV show "Shark Tank" -- for the Student Innovation Fund Challenge, the university's culture of innovation is on full display during this annual event.

The focus this year is to "dress the building" with presentations, displays, exhibits, receptions and activities, said the center's learning and development specialist Rebecca Nation.

"Students should be proud of their creative projects and have the chance to show them off to the campus community," Nation said. "Our best work is done when multiple diverse ideas and views are brought together."

Jim Oliver, Pithan executive director of the center, echoed this sentiment. "Innovation is about identifying a problem and suggesting a different way of thinking about it. It's about creativity and bringing different fields together to come up with new ideas."

Collaboration is key

Oliver said participation from the colleges and campus partners is what makes this event -- and the mission of the Student Innovation Center -- stand out.

"There's really no place else in the country with this breadth of innovation activity," Oliver said. "The scope and the scale of what we're doing at Iowa State is unmatched."

With all of the colleges participating in the showcase, Nation said it's the perfect opportunity to celebrate student work and remind the campus community that the Student Innovation Center is here to serve everyone during IGNITE and year-round.

"A lot of students see innovation as making the world a better place, and that has to start somewhere," Nation said. "They learn a lot from putting their creative ideas into action."

Work in progress

Since taking the helm in 2019, Oliver has seen the Student Innovation Center transform from a concrete skeleton to a bustling hub of creation and entrepreneurship. 

The showcase has also transformed -- this year's event clocks in at three days in contrast to the weeklong events of years past. Oliver said this was intentional as they considered the capacity for participation by the colleges and students during a busy time in the spring semester.

While past showcases were in mid-April, the center received the provost's permission to hold the event during prep week. By moving the showcase to May, the center was able to highlight student projects completed in innovation classes and programs instead of asking them to finish up in April or create additional work to have something to show.

"I think we have a really nice program coming up," Oliver said. "We're happy to have this event to get the word out about this unique resource and opportunity for ISU students."