Innovation Sprint a Win for Students and NCAA, Indiana Sports Corp


The Sports Innovation Institute, along with the NCAA and Indiana Sports Corp, recently staged an Innovation Sprint for IUPUI students studying sports management, human computer interaction, and computer graphic technology.

The friendly competition pitted groups of students against each other to creatively generate ideas related to route and on-site activation of the 2021 Final Four: Fan Jam Activation. Students were challenged to identify ways to drive awareness to the 2021 Final Four Weekend in Indianapolis, acquire new volunteers and advocates, and engage diverse communities in new ways.

As part of the project, students examined on-site activities, social media strategies, new audiences, promotions, and creative sponsorship recognition. Virtual reality, interactive photo booths, creative visual publicity, prizes, and hands-on activities were all part of the solutions students presented to stakeholders.

NCAA’s coordinator of men’s championships, Niko Roberts, was inspired by student innovation and creativity. “The students’ different ideas were striking,” Roberts shared. “They opened our eyes to many opportunities that we had never considered. It helped us to think more outside the box and widen our scope.”

Sports Innovation Institute (SII) director David Pierce, Ph.D., helped organize the 24-hour challenge and touted the unique learning value activities like this present.

“This experience provides unparalleled opportunity for IUPUI students,” Pierce noted, “because students are given creative license to reimagine a real event that will be happening across the state next year and present their ideas in front of the event organizers.”

Event impact does not stop with students. It also delivers return on investment to SII’s partner organizations and the greater community.

“The insights we received as a result of this weekend,” Roberts said, “will enable us to continue to enhance the Fan Jam, expand our audience, and will entice us to collaborate with the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute team to continue to improve our programs and allow these students to apply their talents to real-life situations.”

Bringing diverse students together to creatively work within the Indianapolis community is an institute hallmark. According to Pierce, “The [Fan-Jam Innovation Sprint] experience is a prime example of how the Sports Innovation Institute gets students from various academic backgrounds and skill sets to work together to imagine the future of sports and events.”

Roberts hopes that sharing this example will encourage others to work with the institute. “I would encourage other entities to collaborate with the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute team,” he said, “because there are so many gifted students in that program that have the desire to create something new and impactful.”

Cover artwork provided by JD Bills, created during the Innovation Sprint 2020

Get the student perspective

Students talk about their innovation sprint takeaways.

Description of the video:

Luke Rasberry: Yeah I think this experience was fantastic. The innovation sprint is just an awesome opportunity. I mean it’s one thing to learn about how to work as a team in a classroom. It's one thing to learn about cross-cultural communication in a classroom. But actually being put in a group with four people you don’t have any idea who they are. All different backgrounds. All different cultures. And then happened to work on the same project the whole time working for the common good. Not just my ideas, not just your ideas, but our ideas as a group making that best option for our presentation is just a fantastic thing that you really can’t get in a classroom.  


Barsa Tandukar: It was a wonderful experience I would say. And I think it was more motivating for students like us who are trying to participate even more. And personally I'm motivated even more and I’d like to participate once more in such kind of competitions.


Waleed Al-Hamed: It was just interesting like coming up with the idea within 24 hours or under 24 hours. Putting it onto paper and then making the presentation. 


Carter Scales: Having the chance to work with my team outside of the regular school classroom environment was really useful. Because we had not just the major that we have in the school but we had all the majors from a lot of different departments in that school. And we are all working together on the same project.


Luke Rasberry: And the presentation I think went really well. I think that the board and the judges who were listening to our presentations had some great feedback for us. We were able to really take those and kind of apply them and do better ideas and work on them after the fact. Which is something I think is a great opportunity to know what you presented and also get that feedback to be able to have that opportunity to improve. Sports major program at IUPUI has so many opportunities about how you can really get involved and I think as a student at IUPUI to not take those opportunities is just a missed chance for you. I mean tt is a great opportunity to grow yourself as a person, individual, and professionally. I highly recommend you take advantage of that shot.