Innovation Lab Gives Birth to Diverse Ideas

  • May 26, 2015

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UCP’s Life Labs initiative held its first Innovation Lab last week in Chicago at Microsoft’s midwest technology headquarters, bringing out the most diverse and inclusive group of participants to date. In addition to many designers, engineers, technologists and other professionals, the event included our youngest-ever participant (age 12) and likely our oldest-ever participant (age 95). Several groups of Chicago Public School students with intellectual and developmental disabilities participated as part of their post-secondary employment training program. Plus, several participants with disabilities joined in from UCP Seguin, an affiliate organization of UCP in Chicago.

Running on CaffieneParticipants brainstorming their ideas.

Chief Technologist for Microsoft’s Midwest District, Paul Edlund, gave one of the lightning talks, which was a highlight for many at Innovation Lab. Edlund is the driving force behind Microsoft’s Hololens, a fully untethered, see- through, holographic computer.

Demonstrating a PrototypeParticipants demonstrating a prototype of their design.

In addition to being co-hosted by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology, the Innovation Lab received support from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Microsoft and Level Office, a co-working space.

Find Out More About Innovation Lab and UCP

Microsoft’s Shelly Stern Gatch Interviews Marc Irlandez (VIDEO)

And The Winner’s Are…
After two days of intense ideation and innovation, including exercises to help build empathy among participants without disabilities and several rounds of rapid reports on each teams progress, a select panel of judges put the teams through a full presentation and question and answer session.
Presentation Stage 2A team presentation.
This year’s judges included:
  • Erin Simpson, Civic Tech Fellow, Microsoft
  • Jane Markham, Vice President, AT & T
  • and Richard Ellenson, CEO, Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF)
Innovation Lab JudgesInnovation Lab Judges: Jane Markham (left), Richard Ellenson (center) and Erin Simpson.


Ultimately, the judges chose Team Wheelhouse with their idea for “”, a crowd-sourced, searchable information resource with information organized by activities and easily accessible through icons and simplified logic. Broad topics lead to more specific topics and are cross referenced with the most popular questions and answers along with related information. The winning team members included: Melissa Zlatow, Hugo DeGentile, Zain Adhami, Katherine Thurston, Miriam Guerrero and Michael T. Simpson.
In addition to the judges choice, the participants were given the opportunity to vote on their favorite project, which resulted in the People’s Choice award. Team Crazy Eights won over the crowd with their idea for “PorTable,” a flexible, portable, lightweight personal table for people who can’t be accommodated at standard size table (as they are either too tall or too short, or mobility devices can’t fit under the table). Team members included: Steve Luker, Jan Preble, Lukasz Grzybek, Cheryl Chen, Neha Singhal, Jackie DeThorne, Tara Havlicek, Ron Busse.
IMG_4084Innovation Lab winners, Team Wheelhouse, hard at work on
PorTable PresentationTeam Crazy Eights, giving their presentation for their design PorTable.


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