Innov8athon focuses on paint

Bruno Beidacki

Sherwin-Williams and Kent State’s Blackstone LaunchPad taught students new tips and tricks for painting through Innov8athon IV: Innov8 Paint! in the Schwartz Center on Saturday morning. 

Around 40 students from Kent State, the University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University and Cuyahoga Community College, spent the morning learning about the different methods of painting and the current problems the industry faces by showing a presentation and hosting several work stations.

Gathered in small groups, the students were then asked to develop an idea to help facilitate the process of painting.

“I’ve worked in the industry for 34 years and, although I’ve seen and done a lot, my training is old-school,” said Sherwin-Williams Program Director Victoria Scarborough. “We need people that are young to bring new ideas and fresh solutions to the problems.” 

Scarborough said she expected a wide variety of expertise between the participants, which she felt was exactly what happened.

“I knew we would have several engineering students, but also participants studying fashion, arts and even IT,” she said. “We wanted those who can bring something different to the conversation and these areas have everything to do with what we were looking for.”

During a lunch break, a group of students from the University of Akron discussed their experiences during the event. 

“I dragged my friends here and we are all having fun,” said Trevor Allen, a mechanical engineering major from the University of Akron. “I love the work that Sherwin-Williams does, so to be a part of an event they sponsor is exciting.”

“It is a great experience to have the opportunity to come up with solutions to real life problems,” said Andrea Rupley, a chemical engineering major from the University of Akron. “It gives us the feeling that our work matters and that means a lot for a freshman.”

Kent State seniors Minh Phuong and Muna Mohammed helped to comprise one of the most diverse groups in the event. Phuong — from Vietnam — is a fashion design major and Mohammed is a finance and entrepreneurship major from Ethiopia.

Phuong and Mohammed said they decided to attend the event after working with Blackstone Launchpad on their ventures.

“I was part of another event that Blackstone Launchpad put together, where I pitched my idea of a business incubator in my home country,” Mohammed said. “So when we heard about this event, we thought it would be both fun to participate in and an opportunity to learn about a new industry.”

This was the fourth event organized by Blackstone Launchpad in a hackathon format. It was the first time, however, that the hacking marathon was focused on the painting industry. 

“We hosted two fashion hackathons and one general business hackathon, but never an industry-specific event,” said Blackstone Launchpad Program Manager Zach Mikrut. “For such an event focused on the painting industry, the turnout was great and we are really happy with what the students have been coming up with.”

After several hours to brainstorm, design and develop their solutions, each group had the chance to present at least two ideas in front of a panel of judges.

The winners of the Innov8athon Paint! event were University of Akron students Trevor Allen, Andrea Rupley and Alex Stanik. The team received a $2000 award for their concept of a comfort grip roller that would assist with painting fatigue, as well as help consumers such as senior citizens to paint.

Bruno Beidacki is an activities reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]