The ICE Winter Blast, an event for entrepreneurs, got a bit hot Wednesday.
Hosted by Innovate Blue, the University’s unifying body for innovation and entrepreneurship, and the Central Student Government’s Commission on Student Innovation, the event brought together several hundred innovators from multiple University schools, as well as the Ann Arbor community — before kicking them out briefly to the tune of a fire alarm and a faint smell of smoking popcorn.
Held Wednesday evening in the Michigan Union’s Rogel Ballroom, the blast was halted briefly but resumed after a quick, impromptu tour of the Union’s front steps and the event’s ice sculpture being carved on the front lawn.
Kristen Kerecman, Innovate Blue communications manager, said the purpose of the event was to showcase campus-wide innovation and to bring more students into the University’s entrepreneurial “ecosystem.”
“This is the way to show students what’s happening, like some of the ventures that students are working on, and the resources to help them get there,” she said.
But pulling in new students was not the event’s only purpose.
“The Commission was created to connect and unify all of the various entrepreneurship entities on campus and to have this big celebration of what we do,” said Engineering junior Diego Calvo, chair of the Commission on Student Innovation.
He added that the Commission’s goal is to combine all of the University’s entrepreneurial groups into “one powerhouse.”
“We think that every student at the University of Michigan should have the opportunity to find a team of crazy people and work on some project that really gets them going — more than just in classes,” Calvo said. “We want to see engineers and LSA students and art and designers coming together and coming up with these amazing projects.”
Representative of that mission, the ICE Winter Blast was packed with students from many of the University’s different academic units, including the School of Public Health’s Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship program, the School of Information and the School of Nursing. Various student organizations and ventures were also represented.
“To make the best ideas and solutions come out of U of M, and to give students the best possible experience, you have to meet people who aren’t like you and you have to work with different people,” Calvo said. “And so the commission has brought all these groups together.”
Calvo said the ICE Winter Blast served as a sort of finale event for the University’s Month of Entrepreneurship, which ran from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15 and included events like Startup Weekend, MHacks and Makeathon.
He said this event, in particular, was organized with the hope that students would come and see that entrepreneurship was relevant to them, even if they thought their field of interest didn’t include an emphasis on innovation.
LSA freshman Evan Garfinkel also led the event as part of the Commission on Student Innovation.
“Mainly, the Commission on Student Innovation wanted to promote and expose innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship,” Garfinkel said.
For that reason, they named the event “ICE.”
“We sat down as a commission of the student government and we said it’s really important to expose more students to these ideas and for the students that want to participate in this type of stuff to be able to connect them with organizations and with startups that would really be meaningful to them,” Garfinkel said. “There’s just a growing entrepreneurial presence and interest on campus where a lot of students from a lot of different schools across campus — whether it be Ross, whether it be Engineering or LSA.”
Art and Design senior Nick Tilma ran the School of Art and Design’s booth at the event. On display in front of his table was a prototype of what he called “Study Buddy,” a multi-surface, swiveling desk he designed in a class last semester.
The class’s prompt was to design furniture and accessories for college students.
“We did the whole process of researching what people need, what people want and choosing and developing our projects into full-scale, working models,” Tilma said.
With him was Art and Design senior Xiaoying He. She, too, displayed a prototype of her product, “Squishy,” a pillow holder for iPads, glasses and other odds and ends.
Stationed at the A2Geeks table, a nonprofit entrepreneurial hub in Ann Arbor, was Roger Rayle, a venture catalyst at R2VIVE. One of A2Geeks’s notable events is the monthly A2NewTech event, an idea-pitching session where entrepreneurs can share ideas and network.
“Half of the students here have already presented (at the event),” Rayle said.
In line with the event’s mission to connect entrepreneurs, sets of partnered organizations — one from the University and one from the students — have also created an events list on Innovation Blue’s website.
By way of this “central hub” they hope to keep students of all different backgrounds connected to entrepreneurial opportunities on campus and in Ann Arbor, Garfinkel said.
In addition to events like ICE, Jeni Olney, student affairs specialist at the Center for Entrepreneurship, said the University wants to extend entrepreneurial opportunities to all students by way of the Minor in Entrepreneurship.
Motioning to the student-filled Rogel Ballroom floor, Olney said students are already passionate about entrepreneurship.
“The minor offers that curricular stamp, saying that the University acknowledges and recognizes the efforts of these students at a curricular level,” Olney said. “We want to further equip them with the skills and the tools that will assist them in their endeavors outside of class.”
Calvo said he believes the drive to involve students from all over campus in entrepreneurship is unique to the University because of its interdisciplinary nature.
“We’re the only school that I know of where we’ve made entrepreneurship integrated into the most general, largest college at our school, to show people that hey, no matter what you are studying, there’s opportunities here for you,” Calvo said.