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Students solve global problems through Innovation Symposium

July 7, 2014

Students visit Restormel Castle in CornwallStudents visit Harlaxton College in England

KOKOMO, Ind. — Inspired by her trip to England, Jaina Hattabaugh plans a 5K walk — but with a twist.

Participants will not only walk a little more than three miles; they will pick up trash along the way.

"Visiting the Eden Project inspired me to think of what I can do to contribute, to make the world a better place," said Hattabaugh, from Kokomo. "They're really focused on the environment, and what we as individuals can do. It really made me grow as a person."

She visited the Eden Project, a visitor attraction focused on sustainability education, as part of Indiana University Kokomo's Innovation Symposium. This is a by-invitation-only class intended to encourage students to think about global issues, and how they can solve the world's problems.

Participants are selected through a nomination process, and spend a semester reading and researching about technology, the environment, and philanthropy. At the end of the semester, the group travels for three weeks in England and Scotland. While overseas, they meet innovators, visit museums and ecological sites, and research for a final project that addresses a global issue.

In other words, this is not tourist travel.

"Ultimately, our goal is to empower students to create positive change," said Karla Stouse, senior lecturer in English, who leads the program. "The Innovation Symposium requires students to go beyond just visiting an international destination. They have to apply what they have seen and learned, so they can develop ways to make the world better."

Joey Fellow, from Kokomo, found inspiration not only from The Eden Project, but also from visiting the tombs of Sir Robert Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, and Sir Isaac Newton, one of the world's most influential scientists, at Westminster Abbey.

"They were people who looked at things in a different way," Fellow said. "Newton challenged the way people lived, and became the forefather of many disciplines. He didn't limit himself."

The visits made him consider how he could combine his love of science and his business management major, leading him to begin developing a prototype for a more energy efficient electric outlet.

"I want to start my own company," he said. "I feel I have a lot to offer by doing that. We don't have to go overseas to find innovation; we can look within our own borders and find it. No matter where we are, there is a need for innovation."

As a nursing student, Israel Nieto sees a need for change in how nurses take patients' vitals, and is working to create a new system, because of this program.

"This experience opened my eyes to think outside the box," he said. "Every hospital, every nurse takes vitals the same way. Nobody questions why, but now I question it. With the device I'm trying to build, I'm going to revolutionize the way we take vitals."

Nieto, from Kokomo, had been to England before, but it was different going to look for innovation, rather than as a tourist experience.

"We get stuck in our world, but what's considered normal here is not normal everywhere," he said. "They look at us differently, we look at them differently, but who is to say who is right and who is wrong? It was an eye-opening experience."

Additional students participating were John Williams, Fairmount; Amber Ancil, Gas City; Haylee Cullison and Tyler Keck, Kokomo; and Leann Cook, Martinsville.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 09/16/2014