Da Vinci Center student wins Wal-Mart competition

Sarah King 
Contributing Writer

A VCU student is continuing the school’s recent success in Richmond’s business ventures.

Olugbenga Oredein, a graduate student with the  Da Vinci Center, won a Wal-Mart competition earlier this month. Oredien’s product, SKRIBS, won the kids category of the competition. It is a set of three bracelets sold for $6.95 that children can color and draw on, and then erase it by swiping their finger or using a tissue.

The product survived four rounds of competition, and placed first among hundreds of thousands of other entries. Wal-Mart will sell the product on its website. Oredein said he attributes his success to the Da Vinci Center at VCU.

“(The Da Vinci Center) helped me recruit children for my focus group and capture it on video for the competition, and they hosted the Venture Creation Competition, which I won the graduate division of last spring,” he said. “The center also helped with social media and press support in the more recent rounds of the Wal-Mart competition.”

There is a final phase of competition where if SKRIBS wins, the product will be moved from online into retail and actually receive marketing support. The next round begins Oct. 29.

The Da Vinci Center is a conglomeration of the school of the arts, business, engineering and, as of this year, the College of Humanities and Sciences. The purpose of the center is to encourage innovation initiatives and entrepreneurship opportunities. It features an undergraduate certificate in product innovation as well as a graduate degree program.

The center, which was established in 2007, also falls under a new initiative, VCU Squared. It  is the concept of establishing VCU not only as Virginia Commonwealth University, but also as Venture Creation University (VCU Squared).  The Venture Creation University idea aims to promote the widespread share of ideas and innovation throughout the student body.

Da Vinci Center director, Kenneth Kahn, Ph.D., said the center welcomes any student looking to apply creativity and innovation to entrepreneurship.

“We wanted this to be for anyone, not just business students. How do you create opportunity out of an idea that you have, how do you make it real?” Kahn said.  “This is open to anyone who is interested in innovation and creation.  Our goal is to create t-shaped individuals, kids who are anchored in one discipline, but branch out in other directions as well.”

This interdisciplinary approach is meant to appeal to as many different schools within the university as possible.

“The decision was an easy one.  We felt the Da Vinci Center program would be even stronger by including students from disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, mass communication and humanities,” said James Coleman, dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences.

The program itself is interdisciplinary meaning an art student is required to take an engineering and business course, whereas a business student would be required to take an engineering and art course.

“Innovation is certainly enhanced by collaboration among students in the arts and design, engineering and business, but innovation is also driven by people with perspectives and understanding of science, cultural differences, demographics, humanities and international skills,” Coleman said.

The center will be moved from its current home in the East Engineering building to a new 24-hour space on Cathedral place by Spring 2014.

Also beginning fall of 2015, there will also be a new learning living community on campus specific to the Da Vinci Center for students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.  The center has approximately 100 undergraduates actively pursuing the certificate and 18 graduate students. Kahn estimated a new section will soon have to be added due to the program’s rapid expansion.

Kahn said he encourages students to apply for the undergraduate certificate, and to attend information sessions hosted by the center pertaining to the latter.  Students can also sign up for the innovation 200 course, which is a one credit speaker-series that has no prerequisite.

“If we continue to do what we’re doing and get our students passionate, good things will happen,” Kahn said. “There are 32,000 opportunities on this campus, if we connect them, great things are going to come out of this.”

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