Behind the Scenes of the Delaware Idea Challenge

February 19, 2015

Written By: Pauline Rubin

This past Wednesday, I had the honor of competing on a team in the Technology Forum of Delaware’s Idea Challenge at 1313 Innovation. The focus of this challenge was to brainstorm how new technology can be utilized to solve problems in Wilmington.

First Ascent is no stranger to these types of competitions. This past November we competed in (and won!) the Delaware Global Startup Battle with the Aster Center. However, this time we only had three hours, not three days like in GSB. And we were limited to just paper, markers, and our presentation skills to really sell the idea.

The two questions posed were:

1) What can be done in Wilmington to support a business owner who is considering moving to or expanding their business in Wilmington, using new technology (beyond a website) and better information?

2) How can new technology (beyond social media) be leveraged to create the lifestyle and a community with entertainment, culture and volunteer opportunities that make Wilmington an attractive place, specifically for young professionals?

Once the questions had been revealed, everyone went to work immediately. As a member of the Great Dames team, I was working with a group of smart, talented women with different backgrounds. We decided to focus on the second question, and the first step in solving it was to identify why young professionals don’t want to live in Wilmington. Some of these reasons included a lack of good public transportation, a lack of nightlife, and Wilmington’s reputation of being dangerous and unsafe.

Great Dames team
The Great Dames team

Our solution was a combination bike path/running trail and a monorail that would connect various parts of the city. This would solve a lack of public transportation and unify the different neighborhoods in the city. This monorail would also be accompanied by an app that featured local businesses, encouraging them to stay open on evenings and weekends. The app would also include oral histories of the city that users could listen to as they ride the monorail through Wilmington.

Each team focused on the second question, while some attempted to solve both problems with one solution. Ideas ranged from a drone-based food delivery service to an app rewarding customers from using Wilmington businesses to heat maps of activity in the city so users can see where people can see what’s popular in Wilmington.

The winners were the Start It Up Delaware team, with their idea for “Beacons” in Wilmington. These “Beacons” would be solar-powered information kiosks that would provide information about what’s going on in the city, serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and allow users to charge their cell phones, and the “Beacons” would also be the focal point for “Burning the Beacon” events, similar to the Burning Man festival.

It was inspiring and exciting to see so many great minds collaborating on how to solve some of Wilmington’s biggest problems. The beauty of this challenge was the collaborative effort put forth not only by each team, but the entire community as a whole. Everyone was supportive of other ideas and excited about the possibility of making these a reality.

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