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Muskingum University Gets Students Fired Up with New Ignition Program

The notion that college students are full of ideas and imagination is now a part of business legend. Consider the success of Mark Zuckerberg’s now not-so-little startup called Facebook, and Fred Smith’s then-crazy notion that packages could be shipped overnight via what is now FedEx, both of which were ideas born in college.

What is new in student entrepreneurship is the just-launched Muskingum University Entrepreneurial Ignition Program, designed to help students get the direction and support they need for their inspirations. The group’s first meeting in November attracted a number of students, all with an eye toward helping dreams become reality.

The foundation of the program is that collaborative support can get good ideas moving.

Ignition ProgramIn fact, the creation of the Ignition Program at Muskingum was a collaborative effort itself. Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jay Shaffstall realized that students may need help seeing an idea through to fruition. So, he contacted his colleagues Associate Professor of Digital Media Design Dr. Tom German and Associate Professor of Business Gary Golden. The trio soon realized that they could collaborate and share appropriate resources.

As it turned out, Professor Golden had been looking for support for a project and had contacted 1980 Muskingum alumnus Larry Triplett, co-founder of the highly successful Resource Systems in New Concord. Triplett, who started that company with 1981 Muskingum alumnus Greg Adams, today is interim executive director of Muskingum County Business Incubator (MCBI).

Next, Dr. Larry Normansell, the Harry and Mary Evelyn Laurent Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Muskingum, was invited into the new program because of his role in the relationship between the Muskingum, MCBI and the Muskie Summer Fellowship program.

“The inspiration for this is how most successful web companies have started,” Shaffstall explained. “That is, simple projects by college students that grew. I see a lot of potential in our students.”

Even the Ignition Program’s initial meeting was innovative. The participants engaged in a kind of entrepreneurial “speed dating” that allowed an exchange of ideas and information that encouraged the natural creation of teams with complimentary skills.

Based on the tone of these meetings, the name of the program is apropos, since the students were clearly fired up with a host of far-reaching and diverse projects that go way beyond a better mousetrap.

Their brainstorming brought out these new ideas:

Jennings JavaA mobile app that would help students keep track of their progress toward the requirements for earning their degrees.

A mobile interface to help accurately deploy social science research experiments which, in turn, could help administer health education intervention in doctors' offices.

A subscription service allowing coffee lovers to get frequent, small-order custom blends at peak freshness and quality.

A consulting firm providing social and digital media promotion services to small medical and dental offices.

The development of a detachable grip that could be affixed to the flying discs used in the game of Ultimate Frisbee®.

The students clustered into teams, and created business plans which were presented December 5 to a panel of experts -- Triplett and Aaron Spragg ’03, founder/CEO of Storied Rivals, an award-winning sports multi-media company.

“Throughout the experience, we provided mentorship,” German said. “During the process, faculty advisers provided their expertise to help connect the teams to people who could provide sound advice. If someone is willing to participate on a team to bring an idea to life, and they’ve got what we’re looking for, then we are willing to help these students get off to a great start.”