Innovation in Action’s 10th Annual Final Showcase

For ten years, the Innovation in Action program has never failed to produce extraordinary innovators, entrepreneurs, and teams passionate about making the world a better place. This year was no different. On Friday, March 17th, 15 teams from 12 schools and colleges within the University of Michigan competed for $33,000 in prizes.

Story by Lawryn Fellwock

For ten years, the Innovation in Action program has never failed to produce extraordinary innovators, entrepreneurs, and teams passionate about making the world a better place. This year was no different. On Friday, March 17th, 15 teams from 12 schools and colleges within the University of Michigan competed for $33,000 in prizes.

The event was hosted in the Ross School of Business’s Tauber Colloquium for the first time after three years of virtual programming. To celebrate the return to in-person collaboration and the program’s 10th year, we offered double the number of awards to include specific themes, prizes made possible and judges by our supportive sponsors. It was an honor and a privilege to reward student teams for specific areas of strength as they pertain to the Socially Engaged Process Model – the foundation of the IiA pedagogy. 

The showcase itself served as a celebration of the student teams’ months of hard work investigating their chosen challenge, the stakeholders involved, and potential solutions. With projects ranging from preventing drowsy driving among long-haul truckers to implementing musical resources to low-income Latina communities in Michigan, this cohort was excited to share their work with a panel of seven judges. The judges range in industry experience and background, but all share a passion for change. You can read more about our panel of judges and which awards they presented in our IiA Final Showcase Program

The judges were asked to evaluate each team on their understanding of the problem, potential for impact, demonstration of progress, sustainability, and strength of the team using a thorough Scoring Rubric. Every year, judges comment on how difficult it is to select winning teams. Ann Verhey-Henke, C-SED’s Strategic Director, shared this sentiment during the final award announcement “Each year the student teams come into the program with more passion and creativity. I did not only listen to presentations today, I was invited into the intimate stories and challenges that plague this world through the student perspective. This unique paradigm is filled with hope.”

After a long day of presentations, the judges were finally asked to make their decisions. Fifteen IiA teams made it to the final showcase as Finalists: R1DE, UtilPlastic, BeatNami, Cooperative Learning Platform, Sankofa, UnfoldKit, Save the Planet, Venus’ Closet, AudioOdyssey, NameFrame, Everystory, Dishi, Musica Para la Gente, ImmiHealth, and Urban Oasis. Full descriptions of each team and their team members can be found in our IiA Final Showcase Program.

Winners were announced by Ann Verhey-Henke, Strategic Director for C-SED. In a room of immense talent, eight prizes were awarded. Third place with a prize of $5,000 was UtilPlastic, a team developing a way to recycle the plastic in the community of Pancho Mateo, located in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The core belief of this team is that community engagement, with the addition of the right technology and training, can lead to effective recycling.



The second place prize of $7,500 went to Urban Oasis for their initiative with the goal of developing resources and communities for students in Urban Areas to get involved with indoor gardening to benefit their mental health and environmental consciousness. The team presentation was well-researched, “In research studies, we found that indoor gardening is a good auxiliary method to help with mental health in terms of reducing stress and anxiety and increasing community collaboration.” 

With much excitement, the first place prize of $10,000 was awarded to AudioOdyssey for their platform designed to prevent drowsy driving accidents among truck drivers through engaging and interactive audio entertainment. Their mission is to stop accidents on the road and save lives, “Truck drivers report an average of 5 hours of sleep per night and 40% of truck driving accidents are caused by drowsy driving” shared Zoe Drasner, the full stack engineer for the team.


The Poverty Solutions’ Economic Mobility Award of $2,500, made possible by Poverty Solutions, the university wide initiative devoted to finding innovative solutions to preventing and alleviating poverty. The award was judged by Trevor Bechtel, Poverty Solutions’ Student Engagement & Strategic Projects Manager, and was awarded to UnfoldKit. UnfoldKit is a comprehensive toolkit for developers and architects to build affordable housing with community voice and input, “Despite it’s goal of creating housing for those who need it most, there are no federal or state requirements for local engagement associated with the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) that has already impacted 8 million U.S. families” stated Anna Lam, the project leader. UnfoldKit not only moves communities towards a place where affordable housing is understood and welcomed by its neighbors, it also pushes the design boundaries of innovative and equitable community housing.

The Zell Lurie Institute’s “Most Maximized Team Strengths” Award of $2,500 was made possible by the Zell Lurie Institute (ZLI) that immerses U-M students in entrepreneurial environments where they create, lead, and shape innovative ventures. This award was judged by Sarika Gupta, ZLI’S Managing Director, and awarded to AudioOdyssey.



The U-M School of Information “User-Centered Solution” Award of $2,500 was sponsored by the U-M School of Information (UMSI) which serves as the university’s hum for human-computer interaction (HCI), user experience (UX), data science and analytics, digital archives and library science. The award was judged by Kelly Kowatch, UMSI’s Director of Engaged Learning Office and Adjunct Lecturer, and was awarded to ImmiHealth. The ImmiHealth team is driven to serve immigrants through healthcare in foreign countries, like the United States, because “healthcare is a fundamental human right” and “in our research there is a growing health crisis among refugees and immigrants in the US,” stated Tirth Patel in the team’s final presentation. ImmiHealth is a platform that focuses on easing the struggles of immigrants and uninsured populations in healthcare by connecting these populations to health resources at affordable rates, simultaneously offering a community network and health-related education. 

The Center for Socially Engaged Design’s “Best Community Engagement” Award of $2,500 was judged by Charlie Michaels, C-SED’s Director of Experiential Learning, and Claudio Cameratti-Baeza, C-SED’s Assistant Director of Experiential Learning. The Award was presented to Musica Para la Gente (MPG), a team that aims to implement a musical resources in low-income Latino communities for access to instruments, recording equipment, and mentorship.


After a full day of voting, the Audience Choice award of $1,000 was presented to Save the Planet. Save the planet is an application that enables consumers/utility companies to take measures for consuming, producing and saving renewable sources using IOT and machine learning.

Congratulations to all of our finalists for making it to the showcase. We wish all of you the best on your journey from here. Thank you for bringing your passion, curiosity, and creativity to IiA and to the industries and communities in which you are making an impact. Congratulations to each and every single participant! You can read more about the 2023 IiA winning teams and celebrate all of the finalists on our website

If you are interested in joining our 2023-24 Innovation in Action cohort, stay in touch by subscribing to our monthly newsletter to learn about the upcoming application cycle!

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