Discovery Center and tournament inspire business ideas

By Alyssa Rupp —

So what do you do with that product you created in your freshman design class or that business plan you outlined for an economics project? The Discovery Center can help you with that!

The Discovery Center is a campus-wide service that helps develop things like small business start up and provides other related resources to any student or faculty member who may need them. Randy Hulke is the Executive Director of the Discovery Center and says the center plays a large role in connecting any student or faculty member to any resource.

“The idea behind the Discovery Center is to serve as a conduit between the university and the resources that exist within the university and external stakeholders, whether it’s businesses, industry or other institutions. We’re very much a facilitator of activities that are interdisciplinary and dealing with external stakeholders,” said Hulke.

Because the University of Wisconsin–Stout is such a hands-on campus, the Discovery Center has been instrumental in helping anyone at Stout or in the community succeed with an idea they may want commercialized. “Other branches within the unit include a manufacturing outreach center, research services and a small business development center,” Hulke says. Not to mention, access to the Fab Lab on campus allows the perfect setting for building any sort of prototype.

Another opportunity the Discovery Center is focusing on this year is the Big Idea Tournament, which is in the second year of its initiative within Wisconsin, but its first at Stout. A kickoff event was held last October where the event was introduced and the expectations were given. The campus wide tournament will be held on March 10 at 4 p.m. in the Fab Lab.

“The idea is that the students form a team of 2 to 4 people that would be able to identify a product or service that they would maybe want to turn into a marketable opportunity,” Hulke explains. From there, the groups would pitch a presentation with the possibility of advancing to state and even national levels, with cash prizes along the way.

The event is very much student-driven, and it’s up to them to make it an opportunity that they can build off of and possibly take to future clients. According to Hulke, there are countless things to be learned from an experience like the Big Idea Tournament.

“Practical experience is a big take away in my mind.  Also, learning the importance of finding your market and learning the processes involved in commercializing an idea whether you’re doing it for your own business or the company you’re working for,” Hulke says. “Everybody wants someone who is entrepreneurial.”

Although registration has closed this go around, keep your eyes open for Big Idea Tournament in the future.  However, the Discovery Center is open all school year and ready to help anyone from any major develop and advance an idea. If you’d like to learn more about the tournament or the Discovery Center visit wisconsinbigideatournament.com or search “Discovery Center” homepage.

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