Portuguese Students won Carnegie Mellon University’s first Open Innovation Competition

Two Portuguese master students of software engineering under the Carnegie Mellon | Portugal program, Marina Santana and João Pina, won first place in Carnegie Mellon University’s first Open Innovation Competition March 20. Their team won this competition with a proposal to predict the success of Internet startups by incorporating social networks into the traditional Delphi method of forecasting.

This Open Innovation Competition is an interdisciplinary project sponsored within Carnegie Mellon University by Project Olympus (SCS), the Don Jones Center for Entrepreneurship (Tepper), and the Institute for Social Innovation and Masters of Information Systems (ISI, MISM, Heinz College). In this competition nine teams of six students each presented their ideas for predicting emerging consumer Internet trends to a panel of six judges, including Charles Moldow, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who sponsored the campus-wide competition. The first-, second-, and third-place teams won prizes of $2,000, $1,000 and $500, respectively.

Marina Santana and João Pina MSE students 

Santana and Pina won first place in Carnegie Mellon University’s first Open Innovation Competition in the Orange Team with Logan Powell, a Tepper MBA student; Shing Yan Lau, a junior majoring in statistics; Elaine Lee, a senior majoring in mathematical sciences; and Rakesh Mishra, a Ph.D. student in the Mellon College of Science.

In its proposal titled “Algorithmic facilitation of the Delphi method using crowdsourced forecasting data”, the team noted the success of the Delphi Method, an iterative process developed by the RAND Corp. in which a panel of experts anonymously answers questionnaires and the results are summarized by a facilitator over two or more rounds until a consensus emerges. To apply the method to forecasting Internet consumer trends, the team concluded that an extremely large group of experts would be required. They plan to use social networks to gather rankings regarding the merits of various Internet consumer ideas and then use an algorithm to evaluate each participant’s predictive power over time.
Marina Santana and João Pina, both students in the master’s dual degree program in software engineering, are supported by the industrial affiliate NOVABASE. They are doing their dual degree master program jointly at Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra and at Carnegie Mellon University. “Our mentor at Carnegie Mellon Universiy is Grace Lewis and at Universidade de Coimbra are Paulo Rupino, Pedro Bizarro and Marco Vieira,” said Santana and Pina, adding “although we have always received full support and incentive from them, this competition was mainly taken as an extra-curricular project.”

Q. What took you to participate in the Carnegie Mellon University Open Innovation Competition?
A. We always felt passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship, so we decided to attend a Tepper Business School related course while at the Carnegie Mellon University. When the opportunity of participating in the contest came up, we just couldn’t resist.

Q. What kind of idea did your team developed?
A. We were asked to predict what the next big thing in the internet will be. The challenge was to know if something could become the next Twitter or Facebook. Our team took advantage of our multidisciplinary skills to create an idea that uses technology, social economic factors, and consumer preferences. We developed a method that brings the human factors into the equation in order to organically evolve through time until it gets to the best possible prediction.

Q. What’s the importance of this award for you?
A. This award shows us that the world class education we are having both at Universidade de Coimbra and at Carnegie Mellon University is proving to be inspirational. We feel really proud to have our work recognized even when competing at the highest level with some of the most talented people from around the world. We hope that this will help us foster the innovative thinking along our lives.

March 2010