Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, marked the end of the 10-week Integrated Solutions Laboratory Experience (ISLE) program that brought together students from three institutions in the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education (HCHE): Capital Community College (CCC), the University of Hartford (UHART), and the University of Saint Joseph (USJ).
The program, partially funded by the CTNext Higher Education Initiative, with additional support from the Ensworth Foundation, Metro Realty, and the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, offered students an opportunity to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills. Collaborating within their small groups, students designed and developed computer-based, mechanical, or other assistive-technology products to solve challenges faced by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other special needs. As their projects progressed, they also conducted testing and established business and marketing plans for their products.
To build their skills in these areas, students learned in four course modules taught by faculty from the three institutions and guest speakers from relevant industries. Between the modules on Autism Spectrum Disorders/Special Needs Populations, Ideation and Solution Development, App Development, and Business Plan Development, students gained the necessary knowledge to see their projects through to completion.
“This project was a collaboration – from the submission of the proposal by faculty and staff at USJ, UHART and CCC, to the development of the course modules by faculty from each institution,” said USJ Provost Michelle Kalis, Ph.D. “The most gratifying aspect was to see the students from three different institutions and nine different majors learn together and form cohesive teams.”
The program concluded with Wednesday’s statewide workshop on USJ’s campus, where each team presented their project and displayed their prototype. Selected teams are continuing on, working with capital funders and project faculty to move forward in development with the goal of bringing their product to the market.
In addition to strengthening the relationship between institutions, students and faculty agree that the innovative program offered participants the unique opportunity to learn collaboratively and develop their problem-solving skills, creativity, and flexibility – all of which are vital in today’s workplace.
“We each took a part of the other person’s expertise and learned a bit more,” shared Grace DiModugno ’18. “I feel like us working on teams was definitely a huge plus for working with other businesses or going forward in our careers – being able to work with people who are so very different, find the similarities, and learn from the differences. I feel like this particular program has helped do that.”
With the successful completion of the pilot program, Capital Community College, the University of Hartford, and the University of Saint Joseph look forward to offering this program next summer.