Mark your calendars! This May, the ANTrepreneur Center at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is hosting a special three-part event titled Hacking Student Success: Mental Health Innovation Challenge. This event will invite UCI students to form teams and come up with original business ideas centered on the theme of student success and mental health. Hacking Student Success will culminate in a pitch competition where the winning student teams receive additional funding and opportunities to develop their ideas into real-life products.

This event will also feature networking opportunities, team-building activities, business development workshops, and talks from industry leaders. Excitingly, Metta World Peace, NBA champion, founder of XvsX Sports, and chief impact director of OOTify, will serve as keynote speaker and participate in each day of the event.

Hacking Student Success will take place over three days (May 11, May 18, and May 25), with each day focusing on a different set of goals and activities.

On Wednesday, May 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Hacking Student Success will kick off at the ANTrepreneur Center. This event will feature speakers from UCI and relevant industries who will offer their insight and support as students network, connect, and share their initial business ideas. In a special video produced for this event, World Peace will discuss the importance of addressing topics like mental health with viable business solutions as well as talk about the value of team building as an entrepreneur. Students will also enjoy refreshments and fun de-stressing activities, such as live martial arts demonstrations. Most importantly, this event will see the formation of student teams that will work together to develop ideas and ultimately compete in the final pitch competition. Once the teams are formed, each group will be awarded $1,000 from ANTrepreneur Center’s Student Startup Fund to jumpstart the development of their idea.

The second Hacking Student Success event will take place one week after the kickoff event on Wednesday, May 18, at the ANTrepreneur Center. Running from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., this event will offer student teams the opportunity to refine their ideas and prepare for the final pitch competition with the support of the ANTrepreneur Center’s professional staff and other industry leaders. Thanks to a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) through the Digital Innovation for Health Equity Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) out of UC Davis, students will also receive guidance and a presentation from the experts at AWS. This event will also feature a special video appearance from World Peace in which he will share his personal experience of developing business ideas based on his life experiences.

Finally, the final pitch competition will be held on Wednesday, May 25 at The Cove @ UCI, UCI Beall Applied Innovation’s premier location for entrepreneurial connections and innovation. From 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., student teams will each have the chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of esteemed judges. This competition will select five winning teams and award each with an additional $5,000 in funding. In addition, there will be three special prizes awarded by the judges for teams that include the following criteria:

  • $2,500 prize for a team focused on Digital Health Equity – from UC Davis Health + AWS Cloud Innovation Center
  • $2,500 prize for a team incorporating AWS – from AWS
  • $2,500 prize for a team using Sigma Computing’s cloud analytics platform plus the opportunity to interview for a paid Summer Internship – from Sigma Computing

At this final Hacking Student Success event, World Peace will deliver his keynote speech in person, discussing how entrepreneurship helped him overcome his own mental health challenges and empowered him to become a business leader and mental health advocate.

Following this final pitch competition, the five teams will continue developing their business ideas over Summer 2022 as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (overseen by the UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program). In Fall Quarter 2022, each team will present their fleshed-out ideas to the UCI student body. The team with the best idea for positively impacting student mental health will receive $20,000 to transform their idea into a minimum viable product. Once completed, the final product will launch across campus for user testing and feedback.

Hacking Student Success represents a collaboration between the ANTrepreneur Center and several units across campus, including the Office for Data and Information Technology. Tom Andriola, Vice Chancellor for Data and Information Technology, explains that the mission of this office is to help UCI explore opportunities for technology and data to drive innovation and enhance the missions of teaching, research, patient care, and public service. “There is power and potential in data and information, and events like this provide students with the opportunity to tap into this power and address real-world problems, complementing what they learn in the classroom,” he says. “As a student, hands-on opportunities like Hacking Student Success were an important part of my educational experience, and I feel privileged to help bring something like this to UCI students.”

This event also offers an opportunity for students to gain first-hand experience in developing business ideas, giving a business pitch, launching a startup, and other entrepreneurial skills. This is one of the reasons why the team at the ANTrepreneur Center is so excited to host Hacking Student Success. “This event offers all UCI students the chance to explore the process and the possibilities of entrepreneurship,” explains Ryan Foland, new Interim Director of the ANTrepreneur Center.

“We want to emphasize the value in fostering an entrepreneurial spirit. Whether you come to the event with a fully-developed plan that you’re ready to launch or simply show up because you’re curious about the different stages of entrepreneurship, there’s a place for every student. We recognize all UCI students as ANTrepreneurs, and we want to communicate and celebrate this with this event!”

Foland also explains that the theme of student success and mental health is a way to empower students and invite them to lead important conversations on the challenges of being a modern-day college student:

“With this event, we feel that it’s important to highlight the link between mental health and student success. Between the pandemic, political unrest, and uncertainty we’ve faced over the last couple of years, this is undoubtedly a difficult time to be a student. This is why we wanted to encourage students to apply their creativity to develop actionable solutions to the real-life problems that they and their friends are facing. Hacking Student Success is just as much about having serious conversations about mental health as it is about entrepreneurship. At the end of the day, we really want to show students that they have the ability to use their innovative thinking and unique strengths to make a positive impact on the lives of others.”

With this goal in mind, the ANTrepreneur Center is working with current UCI students and alumni to bring this event to life. “This event is super important because it is asking all students from all different backgrounds to come together to find a solution to better mental health,” says Stefani Rios, UCI alumna and founder of SmartWell. “It is allowing students to start the conversation about how we all can improve mental health and mental health resources for students. SmartWell is very excited to see what these amazing Anteaters come up with!”

Hacking Student Success is made possible by sponsorship from the UCI Office of Data and Information Technology, UCI Wellness, Health, & Counseling Services, UCI Graduate Division, UCI Division of Undergraduate Education, Blackstone LaunchPad, Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, UCI Beall Applied Innovation, Sigma Computing, OOTify, XvsX Sports, UC Davis + AWS Cloud Innovation Center, AWS, and SmartWell.

Interested in learning more about Hacking Student Success? Then visit the ANTrepreneur Center website for more information and registration details. To keep up with the latest news and updates, follow the ANTrepreneur Center on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn.