Student entrepreneurs win Ureka! Big Idea Challenge at Clark

February 24, 2015

Top projects include agraponic food systems, a campus pub, and help for students struggling academically

Clark University Ureka Big Idea! Challenge

Each spring, the Innovation & Entrepreneurship program at Clark University holds the Ureka! Big Idea Challenge, a contest that encourages students to propose creative ideas that benefit the Clark community and beyond. The winners receive funding to help turn their ideas into reality. This year's top projects include an agraponic food-growing system, a campus pub, and a support program for students on academic probation.

"The Ureka! Big Idea Challenge brings forward great ideas every year," said Amy A. Whitney, director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) Program at Clark. "These students have worked hard over the past five months to build their plans, work collaboratively with their peers and generate support for their projects."

In addition to the startup funds, each of the challenge finalists will be mentored during the spring semester by I&E department staff and volunteers as they implement their ideas on campus.

Here are the top 2015 Ureka! Big Idea Challenge projects:

  • "Agraponics LLC" — Clark juniors Christopher Dibble '16, and Calder Sett '16 will receive $3,500 to help them design, build, use and sell sustainable agraponic systems for the production of fruits, vegetables, corn and fish.
  • "Locker Room Pub" — This student team proposed an idea to install a bar in The Grind, a student recreation and entertainment space in the Higgins University Center. The I&E program invested $1,000 toward this larger campus effort. The team includes Joshua Burger '15, Nick Gerber '15, Fernando Pinoargote '16 and Perri Sylvester '15.
  • "Bounce Back" — This program aims to provide emotional and social support to students on academic probation. Young Heo '17 received $500 in funding for a pilot project to test feasibility and scalability of the program model.

"My business partner and I both have a strong passion for the environment and people alike," Dibble said. "We had learned about problems associated with modern methods of food production, and we realized our knowledge can be applied to a solution. Our mission quickly became to educate people about sustainable food production, by making accessible the same technologies used by NASA to grow food in space."

Dibble said the Clark I&E program provided an outlet and impetus for developing the agraponics venture. "Winning the Ureka challenge has given Agraponics LLC the necessary seed-funding to start producing systems for individuals and companies. Our company is now on our way to enabling people and corporations to experience a lifestyle of health and sustainability, through the creation their own sustenance in an environmentally conscious manner."

Innovation & Entrepreneurship is offered to Clark University undergraduates as a minor. The program's Ureka! Big Idea contest began in 2008. The initial winning project, the Clark Community Thrift Store, remains a thriving student-run enterprise, located on Main Street near campus. The store supports Clark's sustainability initiatives and the community by making gently-used college essentials, housewares and clothing available and affordable. Other past winning projects include "WooConnect," a smartphone and web app that helps Worcester college students find events in their community, and the Local Root, an organic farm stand and produce delivery service on campus.

Click here for more information about how Clark University supports entrepreneurs. Questions about the Ureka! Big Idea Challenge or the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program can be directed to

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark's pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark's faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to contemporary challenges in the areas of psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University's motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.

Angela Bazydlo - Marketing and Communications - Clark University