Innovation Garage teams work with the Wond’ry, Accenture PLC pros to invent and disrupt

The Wond’ry’s program manager, Deanna Meador, speaks to Team Invent, part of the Innovation Garage program. (Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt University)

The two team names for Vanderbilt’s Innovation Garage arguably cover most of what innovation is: Team Invent and Team Disrupt.

Innovation Garage is the result of a partnership between the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s epicenter for innovation and entrepreneurship, and Accenture PLC, a global consulting company that works with clients on strategy, technology and operations. The idea is to give cross-disciplinary teams of students a year-long experience solving real problems with the aid of Vanderbilt professors and top Accenture executives.

The first team designed an app that matches qualified workers with oil industry tasks – basically, the TAKL of that industry. The second deconstructed a large manufacturer’s supply chain to figure out why certain parts didn’t show up on time and what could be done about it.

At one spring meeting, Team Invent came together — in person and on Skype — in a sunlit Wond’ry conference room to discuss progress on the app and the pitch video they wanted to make to promote it. The three-person team included Luke Price (ES’18) and Jessica Banasiak (ChemE’18), and both said they were there to learn from both the pros and a teammate who is pursuing his MBA.

“Most of my classes are with students who have the same major,” Banasiak said. “Innovation Garage is helping integrate the things I’m learning about the oil industry through the lens of chemical engineering with other facets of that business.”

She told her team, led by Doug Schmidt, professor of computer science and computer engineering, about her idea to focus more attention on one of the toughest-to-fulfill tasks the app will address and integration of oil well location data.

At the same time, Team Disrupt was meeting in a computer lab to perform multiple regression analysis, looking at more than a half-million purchases made across several years. Their instructor, Dave Berezov, associate professor of the practice of engineering management, said the Innovation Garage work mirrors assignments students are likely to receive in their first jobs.

“They’re also getting direct working experience with professionals at the senior executive level of one of the largest consulting firms on Earth,” Berezov said. “I tell them that the first-year associates usually get a view of the parking lot, but they’re getting a look from the C-suite.”

His team developed an algorithm to enable their client to identify parts orders most likely to experience delivery delays and address those earlier, preventing interruptions in the manufacturing process.

Innovation Garage is accepting applications for next year’s program. Click here for more information.


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-NEWS