Team including U-M student wins big at Lear Innovation Challenge

This feature is courtesy of Driven, the story of how the Detroit region is leading the world in next-generation mobility.
It’s not every day that local college students get to work alongside technology development experts in the field of mobility.

And it’s not every day that local college students get the opportunity to pitch their solutions for real-world problems to top-level industry experts and corporate executives.

And it’s certainly not every day that, should they win, they get a shot at a much-sought-after internship at a Fortune 150 company. And who knows where their careers could go from there?

But that’s just what happened at the third annual Lear Student Innovation Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 23.

The teams of students from a number of local colleges and universities – students of a variety of backgrounds, grades, and disciplines – gathered to pitch their ideas for innovation.

This year’s theme? Solutions that capitalize on industry trends in shared mobility.

While Lear won’t divulge the winning pitch for confidentiality reasons, they will confirm that this year’s winner was Team Notio, which was comprised of Ibro Chundusu, College for Creative Studies; Shaily Fozdar, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Joe Iaquinta, Macomb Community College.

All three will be offered an internship at Lear to incubate their innovation concept, according to Jenny Gogan, marketing and communications manager for Lear Corporation.

In total, this year’s participating universities include University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Michigan, Dearborn; Michigan State University; Michigan Technological University; Wayne State University; Oakland University; College for Creative Studies; and Macomb Community College.

“With this challenge, the students have the opportunity to provide a fresh perspective and insight on a current project, working with Lear’s top experts. The students also receive outstanding mentorship from Lear’s innovation team, learning how to develop the pitch and work together as a cross-functional team – both of which are essential to career development,” says Robert Humphrey, director of innovation management for Lear Corporation.

“The Lear team also benefits from this experience by showcasing their dedication to working with students in the community and helping to establish great entrepreneurial talent for the future.”

Solutions for mobility challenges

The third annual Lear Student Innovation Challenge began with a two-day workshop starting Feb. 9. There, students received innovation training from industry experts and learned about Lear’s capabilities. The students were also presented a mobility challenge faced by Lear today. They then dispersed for a two-week period, incubating their ideas before the final event.

On Saturday, Feb. 23, the students gathered in front of a panel of Lear executives and industry experts, pitching their innovative ideas in the style of the popular Shark Tank television program.

In the end, it was Team Notio for the win.

This is the first year that the Lear Student Innovation Challenge has tackled the topic of mobility, says Humphrey. In 2017, a team of students were awarded for presenting a solution to a problem with a Lear manufacturing process. In 2018, students were tasked with increasing vehicle occupant safety.

“This is our third year hosting the competition, and we have had great success with it in the past,” Humphrey says.

“In the last two years we’ve had three incubation teams and submitted for a total of eight invention disclosures – which turned into four patent applications, with one of the projects underway and currently being implemented at Lear.”

Visit Driven and learn how the Detroit region is leading the world in next-generation mobility.

Image courtesy of Lear Corporation.
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