We call upon the disruptors and freethinkers who want to defy conventional thinking and tackle global problems. Scientists, artists, engineers – and everyone in between – are encouraged to put their resourcefulness to the test.

The Ain Center’s newest competition brings together students from a variety of backgrounds to brainstorm solutions to social and cultural issues in a day-long challenge. Each year, participants tackle a different issue, guided by mentors and experts to devise a solution. Teams then present to a panel of judges. Top teams earn cash prizes.


The challenge prompt will be distributed prior to the day of the competition. The night before, participants will receive:

  • Team member assignments
  • Challenge prompt and background information
  • Any last minute details

Students will also receive helpful information during a kickoff session, held about two weeks before the Challenge day.

2018 Mentors

Mentors are selected based on the topic of the challenge. These experts may be from a variety of fields and can assist students with their plans throughout the competition day.

For the 2018 Challenge, teams tackled the issue of honey bee colony collapse. To help them brainstorm and ideate, they worked with:

  • Lidia Alexa, Visiting Fulbright/Romanian-American Foundation Faculty, Ain Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Stefan Bodi, Visiting Fulbright/Romanian-American Foundation Faculty, Ain Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Lauren Caruso, Associate Director, Rochester Center for Community Leadership
  • Emma Derisi, Coordinator for Undergraduate Global Initiatives, Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Ward Graham, Owner, Brighton Honey
  • Erin Masterson Holko, Owner, Masterson’s Garden Center and Beekeeper
  • Veronica Maier, Visiting Fulbright/Romanian-American Foundation Faculty, Ain Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Willa Powell, Board of Education Member, Rochester City School District and Beekeeper
  • Larry Rothenberg, Corrigan-Minehan Professor of Political Science and Director, Wallis Institute of Political Economy
  • Chris Wait, Examiner, US Patent and Trademark Office and Beekeeper

2018 Judges

  • Michael Daley, Assistant Professor, Warner School of Education and Human Development
  • Carmala Garzione, Professor, Earth & Environmental Sciences
  • Jarmila Haseler, Agricultural Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Liz Simmons, Reference Librarian at Genesee Community College and Beekeeper

2018 Winners

  • 1st Place: BeeHouse – Martin Helmrich ’20 (BS, Computer Science & BA, Business); Kaixin Li ’20 (BA, Brain and Cognitive Science & Digital Media Studies); Akhilesh Vithal Malge ’19 (MS, Chemical Engineering); Xinlin Zhang ’20S (MS, Marketing Analytics)
  • 2nd Place: To Bee or Not to Bee – Vatsal Agarwal ’21 (BA, Financial Economics & BS, Computer Science); Lani Chau ’19 (MS, Technical Entrepreneurship and Management); Huping Guo ’19S (MS, Marketing Analytics); Anuradha Pahalajani ’19 (MS, Technical Entrepreneurship and Management); Madison Zaelit ’20 (BA, Philosophy & Psychology)
  • 3rd Place: Bee Aware – Lennard Emanuel ’18 (MS, Technical Entrepreneurship and Management); Samuel Howard ’19S (MBA); Gregory Scott ’20S (MBA, Marketing and Data Analysis); Aman Tugnawat ’18 (MS,Technical Entrepreneurship and Management)
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Upcoming Events

Nov 22

Creative Collision Challenge

November 22 @ 9:30 am - 5:00 pm


Contact Heidi Mergenthaler, Program Manager.