Arctic Innovation Competition celebrates ingenuity with $10,000 prize

Katrina Howe/Sun Star Reporter
September 18, 2012

The Arctic Innovation Competition, an annual contest celebrating and encouraging innovative ideas is taking place once again this fall.  The contest is open to everyone, and the prize for first place is $10,000.  The final deadline to enter the competition is Friday, Sept. 21, and the final competition will be held on Oct. 19 in the Wood Center Ballroom.

It’s a common misconception that AIC is put on by the UAF Engineering Department.  In fact, Ping Lan, the founder and creator of AIC, is the director of the UAF Master’s of Business Administration program.

The judges of this years Arctic Innovation Competition. The competition is hosted by the School of Management. Sept. 18, 2012. Allen Obermiller/Sun Star

Lan started the competition in 2008 with one of his graduate business classes, who still help to run and organize it.  “The competition is for everyone, not just for technical or business [people.]” said Lan. Funding for the competition comes from outside sponsors, not the university budget, and the community is involved in judging and welcome to participate.

Lan’s goal is to create a medium for people to use their brains, to encourage more innovative business and stimulate the economy.

“Everybody is innovative. They need a stage to show their creativity,” Lan said. “Innovation is not a monopoly. Every student has the ability to generate good ideas. If you have a problem you can come up with some ideas. People have lots of problems, so they can come up with lots of ideas.”

Last year there were more than 200 entries. Ninety percent of the entries submitted were from Alaska-50% from Fairbanks-and 10% from the lower 48 and countries such as Canada, Korea and Finland.

UAF is now getting international recognition as a business school because of this competition, noted Mickela Lamb, a former business student of Lan and MC of last year’s competition.  “The AIC has drawn attention to the university in an area they weren’t known for,” said Lamb. “UAF needs more of this.”

The competition brings in a large variety of ideas. Last year, a participant had an idea called Temporary, Sunscreen-Reminder Tattoos to put on kids.  The tattoo would disappear when sunscreen was put on it and reappear when the sunscreen wore off.  This idea placed in the top 20 last year.

“There is a misconception that the idea has to be arctic or scientific or really thought out,” said Sierra Sadler, a graduate student at UAF. “People with rough ideas can compete with people who have complete ideas.”

Last year’s first prize winner was the HydroHeater, developed for winter sports to keep athletes’ water sources from freezing.

This year Lan and his students will be holding a Junior AIC for ages 17 and under, with prizes for the top three entries. Kids have competed against adults in previous years, but now they can compete with others their own ages.

“The more the merrier,” said Anthony Shaw, a former graduate student of Lan.  “When I was younger it seemed kind of cliché, but as I have gotten older I see that it is important to get the kids involved.”

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