ACCELERATE, Wentworth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center nurtures a culture of innovation and entrepreneurial thinking among Wentworth’s students. Connects students with mentors, alumni and professionals to learn, explore, push their ideas, follow their passion, have fun, and grow. We offer programs, but also events, workshops, and fun activities for EVERYBODY.
|Startup Challenge||Social Innovation Lab||College ThinkTank|
The Startup Challenge is an interdisciplinary extra-curricular program helping students develop innovative thinking skills and entrepreneurial confidence through interdisciplinary teamwork. It provides students with a platform for idea exploration, mentorship, networking opportunities and gives students permission to test an idea without fear of failure. This educational foundation serves to impact the students’ definition of success, reframe their role in a company and provide a taste of the startup culture.
WORKSHOPS + EVENTS
Inspiration happens everywhere, but particularly where you don’t expect it. We intentionally create workshops and events to encourage students to leave the beaten or predictable path of their disciplines.
MENTORS + AMBASSADORS + COACHES
Alumni, professionals, faculty ambassadors, and service providers donate time to serve as mentors and functional experts to help guide student entrepreneurs and startups. Coaches aim to guide, encourage and connect student teams.
Teams can pitch for gap funding (up to $10,000) to achieve their next milestone. PitchRounds take place five times a year. Funded teams launched ACCELERATE spin offs such as Gentoo and Backroad Pedicab. ACCELERATE Alumni such as Pillar Technologies raised funding and established ventures after graduation.
Product creation and social impact is a strong focus of ACCELERATE. We established a maker lab and facilitate access to the manufacturing center and other labs on campus to receive support for prototyping.
The Social Innovation Lab is a 12-week interdisciplinary and immersive experience encouraging coop students, the Social Innovation Fellows, to create innovations that matter, solve real world issues and work in a high-intensity environment. Students partner with an external organization, e.g. WGBH, Zoo New England, Boston Children’s Museum, State of Massachusetts and others, to address a challenge they are facing. Throughout the process the Fellows are connecting with over thirty external thought partners and organizations to harvest subject matter expertise and transfer it to the SIL challenges.
From preventing homelessness, effective recycling systems, stroller re-designs and support mechanisms for individuals with disabilities to patients undergoing strenuous infusion treatments, zoo visitor engagement, and animal enrichment. The problems tackled can be quite diverse, however the process is always the same and follows design thinking principles:
Analyzing the challenge to truly uncover and analyze what the problem is and where the window of opportunity lies. Close work with various stakeholders, experts and mentors is essential.
Ideation doesn’t happen alone. Each team will be on the hot seat at least once a week and utilize the insights of his/her peers as well as the innovator-in-residence to accelerate possible solutions and ideas.
Wentworth students are makers turning ideas into reality. The goal is to impact lives, generating scalable solutions and impactful ideas. Early prototypes and concepts will be developed, tested, stakeholder input solicited and evolved iteratively.
Each team is going to provide a scalability study to our partner to make sure that their concepts and ideas can spread and sustain within the community and/or organization.
Accelerate first introduced the ThinkTank Concept [TTC] in 2013 as a partnership with the City of Boston. The original format was successfully implemented four times as an interdisciplinary, city-wide initiative solving real-world challenges and jump starting civic innovation and entrepreneurship. This format brought together over 500 students, designers, innovators, community partners and city officials from more than 25 disciplines.
Students experienced a rigorous design thinking process led by facilitators from brand name companies such as Business Innovation Factory, IDEO, Continuum, Design Museum Boston, Essential Design and others. The techniques utilized open up their thinking and allow students to utilize these professionals as a resource later for future projects and ideas.
WHAT MAKES THE THINKTANK FORMAT UNIQUE?
The ThinkTank format is highly participatory and promotes co-location. It is imperative to provide the space and informal setting in which participants can build bridges and experiment with being uncomfortable as they are confronted with assumptions, thinking styles and viewpoints potentially foreign to their own disciplines, experience and backgrounds.
Typically, as part of the day-to-day office routine, there are no natural connection points between an archaeologist and an innovation leader at a children’s hospital. The ThinkTank format thrives on these kind of collisions and encourages participants to celebrate them well beyond the one-day event.
EVOLUTION OF THE THINKTANK FORMAT
In 2018, we updated our ThinkTank format to convene both the academic community and industry leaders. Over 50 industry thought leaders across different disciplines, students and faculty from local universities, design thinkers, community partners, and city representatives came together for one day. The intent was to challenge assumptions, explore possibilities, co-create ideas and envision the “Future of Our Cities” with a focus on “Converging Generations” – The act of bringing multiple generations together to collaborate on ideas for creating future cities that are inclusive and accessible to all residents.
From designing infrastructure for autonomous vehicles to preparing for the impending rise of elderly city-dwellers, participants ideated on solutions to some of the most important societal challenges of our time.
Our participants ideated on the following opportunity spaces during the “Future of Our Cities – Converging Generations” ThinkTank:
- Activating all generations to solve systemic challenges
- Preserving the past for a sustainable future
- Mobility for everyone
- Turning residents into citizens
- Play for all
We have welcomed academic participants for both the original ThinkTank format and “Future of our Cities” ThinkTank format from institutions across the Boston area including students/faculty from Wentworth, MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Emerson, Boston College, Boston University, MassArt, Babson, and Roxbury Community College amongst many others.
Accelerate has also been fortunate to welcome leaders in the Boston area business community to our ThinkTank programs including Philips, Continuum, Business Innovation Factory, Workbar, Future in Sight, Sasaki, MassChallenge, Optum, Formlabs, Draper, Stantec, Autodesk, Bose, Boston Children’s Hospital, MassBio, Shell, MilliporeSigma, C Space and Roadrunner Moving and Storage to name a few.