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Inna Tsyrlin, Trip Venturella and Katherine Varge go over their plan for the Scripps Innovation Challenge in Kantner Hall on January 26, 2017.

Scripps Innovation Challenge announces four finalist teams

The Scripps College of Communication released the names of the four teams chosen for the final round of the Scripps Innovation Challenge, a university-wide competition to solve real-world industry problems. 

Of 13 original teams, the finalists are Storytellers, The Players, Green Mappers and Team Bridging. The first-place team will win $7,000 during Pitch Day on March 27.

The first team is Storytellers, a group created by senior political science student Alena Klimas, Ifeoluwa Adedeji and Oluwabukola (Bukky) Shaba both graduate students studying communication and development.

The challenge given to them is from the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, a nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for the residents of Appalachia. The team had to create a solution that helps the foundation raise money to provide residents with scholarship opportunities. When Storytellers read the challenge, they agreed they all felt a deeper connection to the idea.

“I’m from West Virginia, so doing the Appalachia challenge was really exciting for me. … Bukky and Ifeoluwa, they’re both from Nigeria,” Klimas said. "They feel really connected with Appalachia as a region because it’s under-developed and because parts of Nigeria are under-developed as well."

Their team name, Storytellers, came from the solution they proposed to raise money for the foundation.

“We wanted to do something for the community, and we wanted to be able to tell stories and work with our own skills,” Klimas said.

The Storytellers, however, are not the only team who like to tell stories. 

The second finalist team, The Players, includes Trip Venturella, Kathrine Varge and Inna Tsyrlin, three first-year graduate playwriting students. They chose to create a team to think outside the box and focus on how their skills as writers can also make a difference.

“We were like ‘wouldn’t it be cool not only to engage a different part of our brains than the artistic playwriting part, but also develop something that might someday be employed to having social good or social benefit,' ” said Venturella.

Their challenge came from the National Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes wildlife protection. The challenge required looking at today’s media and coming up with an innovative way to educate people about the organization’s mission while also raising money.  

“It was a matter of looking at the media itself, like the internet, and saying ‘OK, when people go to the internet, what are most people interested in? What will grab their attention?’ ” Varge said.

The Players’ direct competition comes from the Green Mappers, who also accepted the National Resources Defense Council’s challenge.

Hashim Pashtun and his partners Rachel Martin and Lindsey Edmunds had never met before creating a team and joining the challenge. Pashtun and Martin had the same professor who introduced them when they expressed their interest in participating in the challenge, Pashtun said.

With a new U.S. president in office, Pashtun felt it was important to promote protecting environmental agencies from having their funding cut.

“Looking toward our current administration in D.C. and thinking about environmental issues and how those issues could backfire on this nation, we need to support organizations like the NRDC,” Pashtun said.

The fourth finalist team, Team Bridging, comes partially from within the Scripps College of Communication. The team includes Zulfia Zaher and Chetra Chap, two Ph.D students studying media arts and studies, along with their partner Arif Ahmed, a graduate student studying electrical engineering. 

Their passion for media directly applied to the competition as they were given a challenge by the Ohio Association of Broadcasters to help attract college students to non-traditional broadcast media careers, such as advertising. 

They decided to create an all-encompassing platform that can help media students search for broadcast jobs while also learning useful skills such as writing a resume or cover letter to future employers. 

"I study media. I’m basically looking for a broadcast job, and I feel as if there’s not a good resource out there to help guide me or prepare me (to) get a position in the media industry," Chap said. 

Above all else, the teams were grateful to be competing in the Innovation Challenge and considered it a great learning experience. 

"We really appreciate the Scripps Innovation Challenge for coming up with this kind of program, so everybody could participate," Zaher said. 


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