Ankara, Turkey — They let their creativity and imagination fly and produced dozens of innovative, useful and wild ideas for products and services that could benefit consumers. A lot of ideas came as solutions to problems encountered by the innovators themselves, their friends or their families. The projects ranged from a manual mobile phone charger for emergencies to a device for spreading honey over bread to a system that powers "an entire city by using the vibrations produced by people walking on special surfaces in schools, malls and other places.”
On May 25, more than 300 students from 63 secondary schools across Turkey, who participated in the Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fair, brought their concepts to Turkish Education Association (TED) Ankara College to show them off. They set up booths and presented their products to business executives, teachers, the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and whomever else was willing to listen to their pitches.
The two winning teams will travel to the United States on a study tour to learn more about entrepreneurship and the U.S. education system. Members of those teams said they are looking forward to meeting American entrepreneurs; some view the late Steve Jobs and Donald Trump, a real estate developer, as their role models. But they are as excited to see American landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.
PRACTICAL IDEAS WIN
The first-place winners from TED College in Aliaga came up with an idea for a contraption that would make the life of the elderly and disabled easier. Over the course of the school year, like their competitors, the Aliaga team was developing the concept and a related business plan with some guidance from teachers and a little help from parents. The Aliaga team members also tested their project, called Engelsiz (No Obstacles) in Turkish.
“Our grandmothers loved it,” said Ïykű Ünsal, a team member. They also did a street survey to learn more about potential customer preferences.
The second-place finisher, the Salvator project from Denizli High School in Anadolu, created a pen that saves paper. The team spokesman, Alp Özünlü, said his team members worked very smoothly.
“We had always studied together before this project, so there was a wonderful energy flowing among us,” he said. Initially, he and his teammates didn’t think seriously about their product. “It was just a dream, as exciting as it was,” he said. But after the win, they think they can make it real with help from financial and other supporters.
Yet another team, Eco-prism, which presented a set with which young people could grow organic vegetables, has already registered some measure of success despite not winning. Some schools embraced its project and Eco-prism now wants to talk to the government about spreading the idea within the Turkish education system.
AS COMPETITIVE AS THEY CAN BE
The competition was fierce as teams showed selling skills that any professional marketing specialist would envy, hustling for attention and trying to bring as many people as possible to their booths. They pitched their concepts and asked for votes for their projects. In their booths, they had posters and other marketing materials, business plans and working prototypes. All were enthusiastic about their projects.
The event was organized by the Turkish Education Association and sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.