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Challenge gives students chance to turn dream into reality

February 17, 2010

Arizona State University graduate Sean Coleman recently quit his full-time job to dedicate himself to a different kind of career – one where his passion can come to life and he can see the immediate impact he’s making on ASU students and the community.

“People thought I was crazy at first, and my dad wasn’t initially happy,” Coleman said, “but I just believe so strongly in what I’m doing. It’s really exciting!”

And what is it Coleman is so excited about? Running his own venture, OrangeSlyce, a company that’s already grown substantially since its Nov. 9 launch.

To help get his business idea started in 2008, Coleman applied for and received a $2,000 Entrepreneur Advantage Project (EAP) grant. Since the program began in 2007, over 75 EAP grants have been awarded to ASU students. The EAP is one of many ways that ASU supports student innovation and entrepreneurship.

This spring, ASU announced an exciting, new funding opportunity for students with innovative ideas. The inaugural ASU Innovation Challenge presents four ways for students to transform their ideas to impact. Prizes for the Challenge range from textbooks and computer equipment to $2,000 to $20,000 in funding (plus mentoring and office space).

“Not all students can take the steps that Sean did to follow their passion, but they don’t necessarily have to,” said Sara Christenson, coordinator of student entrepreneurship. “The Innovation Challenge allows students to pursue their academic and professional interests while applying their skills and passions to real-world problems.”

Students who have an innovative idea for a project, venture or community partnership, or who are simply looking for ways to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation, are encouraged to participate. Undergraduate and graduate students may apply, and there also is a competition that newly admitted students can engage in.

The four tracks of the Challenge include the Challenges Innovator, Edson Venture Creator, Community Changemaker and Innovation Explorer competitions. Students may enter multiple competitions simultaneously, and majors of all disciplines are encouraged to participate.

“We’re counting on faculty and staff to help us spread the word to their students about this unique opportunity,” Christenson said. “Some are really taking that to heart.”

Executive Director of ASU’s Global Resolve, Mark Henderson, is encouraging his class to participate and invited Innovation Challenge representatives to speak to his students. Sidnee Peck, leader of the My Life Venture entrepreneurship certificate program, is asking her students to attend five Innovation Challenge events over the course of the semester.

More information about the Innovation Challenge is available at, including a list of events. Among these events are workshops designed to help students prepare high-quality applications. Sample sessions include those on identifying local and/or global needs, proposal writing, intellectual property policy and business entity formation.

To give students an opportunity to enhance their pitching skills, the Entrepreneurs@ASU student organization is hosting an Elevator Pitch Competition Feb. 25, in the ASU Memorial Union, Tempe campus. First prize is a $150 cash award, and second prize is admission to networking and professional development events for entrepreneurs, sponsored by the Arizona Integrated Marketing Association (AZIMA).

"We're dedicated to helping students make connections and gain the skill sets they need to submit winning Innovation Challenge applications as well as become successful entrepreneurs," said Tyler Metcalf, co-president of Entrepreneurs@ASU. Details about the event can be found at

Applications for the Challenges Innovator, Edson Student Venture Creator and Community Changemaker competitions are due March 26. Qualifying competition entrants will participate in events on April 16, World Entrepreneurship Day. A host of additional activities will be planned to celebrate the occasion. Winners will be announced at the end of April.

Engaging in the ASU Innovation Challenge prepares students for their professional and academic futures by providing an opportunity for them to practice their skills in teamwork, leadership, project development, business plan creation, public speaking and network creation. Students will also become prepared to enter into additional competitions for business plans and innovative projects.

Questions regarding the ASU Innovation Challenge should be directed to