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Quad Innovation Partnership Tackles Community Issues

By Stephanie Wurtz

Ten CC students were among 25 students and recent grads from four area colleges and universities who participated in the Quad Innovation Project Summer Intensive, partnering with local organizations in developing scalable, innovative solutions to real-world problems.

The teams included members from CC, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Pikes Peak Community College.

“I was pushed out of my comfort zone and challenged to think bigger, broader, and from multiple perspectives,” says Abbey Lew ’18, who worked on a project addressing food insecurity in the community. “I was inspired by the many community members who came to speak to us as well as by my passionate peers, all of whom are dedicated to bringing about positive change in the Colorado Springs community.”

Quad Partnership Director Jake Eichengreen says he was surprised and impressed by the team dynamics. “The program this year was tremendously diverse, with a broad and inclusive representation of different academic tracts, ages, life experiences, races, and backgrounds,” he says. “Each of our teams was comprised of members from multiple schools. For many of our participants, it was their first time working closely together with students from such radically different backgrounds, and it went phenomenally.” Maylin Fuentes ’19, a CC political science major, worked on a project to build an urban farm. Her teammates were a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Special Forces pursuing an associate’s degree in science and a retired army private who just finished his third degree in advanced manufacturing at Pikes Peak Community College.

Thomas Gifford ’18 worked with his team to reduce peak energy demand in the region by developing a new format for utility billing. He says working toward a common goal was a valuable part of the program. “Not only did I gain confidence in my own abilities, but also in the idea that I can truly contribute towards solving a large and complicated issue when working with the right people,” he says.

Thomas received a job offer from the startup Maxletics, which he accepted and where he’ll be working for the rest of the summer; he met the company’s founders through the Quad summer program. Along with Gifford, several summer participants interviewed with and/or obtained employment with businesses or organizations that visited the class as part of the program.

Lew says she and her teammates are excited to continue pursuing their project and are currently working with various community businesses and organizations to develop a food-focused comic book that aims to increase food literacy among children.

“I’ve gained more entrepreneurial experience, learned how I work with different types of individuals, discovered the vast number of preexisting resources and opportunities in Colorado Springs, and have seen how seemingly small ideas can lead to bigger actions and impacts,” says Lew. “The most rewarding part of Quad was the connections and relationships I formed that continue beyond the end of the program.”

“My group was working on a project centered around sharing the stories of people experiencing houselessness,” says Emma Finn ’20. “It was both informative and eye opening to hear their stories and begin to understand the deep-rooted stigmas that span throughout Colorado Springs and the rest of the country. I think the most rewarding part of the program will come when we get our project up and running.” She says her team intentionally begin using the term “houseless” instead of “homeless” after discussion with one community member who conveyed that, while it may be unconventional, he did have a “home.” What he was missing was a house. “After this encounter, we shaped our project around what people experiencing houselessness actually need, not what others may think they need,” she says.

It’s a program that not only benefits participants, but also the broader community. “The program offers the community access to the kind of entrepreneurial talent and young leaders capable of building new value here in a variety of ways throughout the community,” Eichengreen says. All six of the Quad Project teams chose to build projects that address major issues facing the community — food insecurity, homelessness, transportation, and peak energy consumption. “The community is the true beneficiary of the sustainable, scalable concepts our students built that open new opportunities to the homeless, stimulate demand for fresh food in food deserts, and reduce peak energy consumption,” Eichengreen says.

More than 75 community members attended demonstration day in late June to hear students present their projects. The projects included:

  • Stuff Comics: Creating superhero comics that excite kids about healthy eating. Finalizing funding, printing, distribution, and content partners; Committed to 1,000 copy beta version launching in September.
  • 300 Energy: Creating improved formats for energy bills to encourage customers to reduce demand during peak energy usage times, while also saving users money. A bill design under consideration for further development with Colorado Springs Utilities.
  • Lift Me Up: A philanthropic ride-sharing program for those in need. The team has secured a service provider partner and raised $1,000 towards a beta launch.
  • Apical Horizons: Building urban farms to produce food and housing for college students in need. The team identified a possible pilot site and is finalizing a modular, replicable design.
  • Strive: A project to amplify the stories of the “houseless” to improve access to mental health resources. The team has identified initial houseless participants and mentors.
  • Avium: Creating engaging education to stimulate demand for healthy food choices in food deserts. The group’s first teaching dinner will be Aug. 5; they have secured a chef/instructor, food, venue, and marketing.