Labs on the Johns Hopkins campuses are not likely to have a thousand visitors in a month—or ever—but the Idea Lab was launched online this spring specifically to draw a crowd.
Johns Hopkins' new crowdsourcing website kicked off its first cycle in March with two challenges that inspired the submission of 34 ideas and more than 4,400 votes from students, faculty, and staff across the university community. At the end of the cycle on May 1, two winners with the most votes were announced for each challenge.
In the coming months, additional projects from the Idea Lab will be chosen to receive funding as well.
The Ten by Twenty Challenge offered up to $20,000 for ideas that would improve collaboration and support the One University goal of the Ten by Twenty vision. The most popular idea, with 557 votes, was a program designed by graduate students from the Biomedical Engineering program in the schools of Medicine and Engineering to invite interdisciplinary teams to propose new medical solutions.
The students will ask members of different JHU departments to form a team, identify a medical need, propose a feasible solution, and promote that solution with an online campaign. An online voting process open to the public will determine which ideas receive financial support.
The Hopkins Graduate Student Consulting Club proposed the second Ten by Twenty Challenge winner, which received 537 votes. That group will create a lecture program for graduate students and postdocs to learn practical business skills that will help them find employment after they complete their studies.
"These ideas, and many others submitted this cycle, represent the creative thinking and desire to make a difference that we hoped to illuminate and nurture with the Idea Lab," said Nicole Pennington, moderator of the Ten by Twenty Challenge. "It was exciting to see the votes flying in up to the last minute as a number of great ideas raced for the top two spots."
The Idea Lab also offered a platform for the existing Diversity Innovation Grant program to ask the university and health system community for proposals and votes.
The top idea, with 291 votes, was proposed by a group of faculty, students, and staff on the Homewood campus, who will receive funding from the Diversity Leadership Council to jumpstart the conversation around gender equity in science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines. The team plans to organize reading groups, interdepartmental workshops, and a panel discussion.
A second grant to a sophomore in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences will support the creation of a "human library," which will identify individuals with diverse life experiences to be available to tell their stories in person when requested. According to the proposal, which received 225 votes, "live story telling … will contribute to the development of a community with more worldly, understanding, and knowledgeable people."
Ashley Llorens, chair of the Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council, said: "IdeaLab has really helped us to take the DIG program to the next level by providing more far-reaching and dynamic engagement of students, faculty and staff throughout the university and health system."
The Idea Lab was inspired by the Applied Physics Laboratory's Ignition Grants, which use an online platform to engage the community to apply for seed funding grants, discuss the proposals online, and vote. Since 2010, that program has drawn more than 750 ideas from APL staff.
University leaders are discussing how to continue the Idea Lab in the coming academic year. "We welcome ideas from the community for ways to grow the Idea Lab and make it even better," Pennington said.
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