On the evening of September 18, 2023, as the sun dipped below the horizon outside the Duderstadt building, the MPowered Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship, came alive. This event attracted a broad spectrum of bright minds from first-year undergraduates to seasoned PhD candidates.

Exemplifying the rich diversity of the University of Michigan’s academic fabric, the participants for this challenge ranged from Dentistry to Public Policy to Engineering, and every major in between. Separated into collaborative teams, they shared a common objective – to construct a working quadcopter drone within a time constraint of 75 minutes. This event was more than a technology challenge; it was an innovative melting pot of diverse minds demonstrating the unifying and creative power of entrepreneurship.

The contest required more than just design and engineering prowess. Students had to competently answer trivia questions enrooted in the MPowered and CFE ideologies and the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem at U-M. Their score points converted into purchasing power for the materials needed to bring their innovative designs to life. The ultimate goal was to skillfully guide their drone out of a large box – a task demanding intricate planning and precise construction. Adding to the complexity, the team that managed to achieve this feat with the heaviest drone payload would clinch the victory.

Emerging as vanguards of innovation, two teams successfully accomplished the assigned task, and jointly claimed the $1000 prize money. Team 10, represented by Shanjida Akhtar, Sarah Waldman, Isabella Falcon, Mek Sudhiwana, Emma Noraian, Filomela Gerou, M. Zhu, Derek Miller, and William de Voest, and Team 11, composed of Kanishka Gabel, Srushti Hippargi, Taylor Nguyen, Swesik Ramineni, Joshua Sum, and Matthew Drutis, demonstrated remarkable talent, clever engineering and seamless teamwork. 

Reflecting on the event, Nick Moroz, Director of Entrepreneurial Practice at the Center for Entrepreneurship, proudly stated, “Our students exemplified quick-thinking, technical expertise, collaboration and most importantly, the team-based entrepreneurial approach we continually strive to nurture.”

The MPowered Innovation Challenge is a testament to the budding entrepreneurial ecosystem fostered at the University of Michigan. Reflecting the breadth and depth of our academic fields, it demonstrates how innovation can thrive when creative minds from diverse disciplines collaborate. It continues to prove that when student minds from an array of disciplines come together, barriers are shattered as high-flying ideas take off.