Widener Students Complete Inaugural International Scheer Institute Innovation Sprint


Participants of the Scheer-Widener Innovation Sprint pitched their ideas.
Image via Widener University.
A Scheer Institute Sprint allowed Widener students to contribute ideas to solve real-world problems through business innovation.

Widener’s growing partnership with the August Wilhelm Scheer Institute for Digital Technology continues to find new ways to prepare students to be leaders in any field.

Recently, students participated in the first-ever Scheer-Widener Innovation Sprint – and came together in diverse groups that worked together to solve a real-world problem through business innovation. 

“This partnership represents a rare opportunity for Widener and the type of opportunity that few universities have. Our friends at the Scheer Institute possess some of the most cutting-edge knowledge on digital transformation in the world, so our ability to work with them puts Widener at the forefront of understanding the impact of digital transformation,” said Anthony Wheeler, dean of the School of Business Administration.

Students from across all three of Widener’s campuses recently participated in the sprint. Over the course of five weeks, five groups worked with Scheer Institute mentors and experts to develop their innovative mindsets.

Simultaneously, Widener University faculty and staff members received training from Scheer Institute experts to support future sprints and bring cutting-edge innovation skills into their daily interactions with students.

The groups were assigned based on the results of aptitude tests taken by participants. These tests identified the students’ competencies and strengths and helped to determine which role they would play within their groups. 

“When we say create innovation, we don’t mean it so much from a product point. What we want to achieve here is that we identify and activate those entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial talents,” said Sebastian Kreibich, head of digital incubation at the Scheer Institute. “At the end of the sprint, they know what [innovation] is, they know the methods, and they have also felt how it is to act innovative.”

“It was an opportunity that I thought would be rewarding because it was going to focus on a different mindset that I was not used to using,” said Kadyija Lawrence, ’16, ‘24, a graduate student in the School of Nursing pursuing her MSN in adult gerontology. 

This is the first Scheer Innovation Sprint held outside of Germany and culminated with students pitching their business or product ideas to judges in the hopes of winning a cash prize provided by Widener campus partner Elite Building Services

The groups worked through the phases of the sprint to develop a product or service to tackle a real-world problem. Topics ranged from workplace training and injuries to healthcare to farming and covered a wide range of technologies such as artificial intelligence, video gaming, and robotic surgery. 

The sprint was open to all majors of graduate and undergraduate students across Widener’s three campuses, supporting the Scheer Institute’s focus on interdisciplinary collaboration.

Nick Aristone, ’26, was the youngest participant in this sprint and has already found ways to integrate what he’s learned into his future plans. He is a business management major who plans to continue on the 4+1 MBA track. 

Aristone, who also plays for the men’s lacrosse team, was nervous about finding time in his schedule to commit to working with his group. But, the group found an easy routine and were able to dedicate time to work together on their pitch. 

“I think at first it’s an intimidating experience. But as the process goes on, you really see all the benefits it has. Working with people you’ve never worked with before really simulates how it’s going to be when you get into a career or an internship where you’ll be the new guy coming along,” said Aristone. 

While neither Aristone nor Lawrence were in the winning group, they both found value in what they learned and saw a way to implement it into their career paths. 

“As I’m going to be a new provider, I have the opportunity to open my own business if I choose to. Having had this experience in a safe, simulated environment allowed me to practice how I would handle certain situations and made me think about how to handle the challenges and resources I would need in my professional life, which is something that I didn’t really think about prior to completing the sprint,” said Lawrence. 

Aristone is no stranger to the business field. For the last eight years, he has been managing and organizing his own landscaping business, which has grown to nearly 40 regular accounts. Not only did this help him bring his experience into his group, but it also gave him new skills as he plans for his future. 

“Doing the sprint and working with others has opened my eyes to potential partnerships down the line, for if I want to sell the company or take a step back. I think I have a lot of skills from the sprint that will pay off in the future,” he said. 

Regardless of whether they won, all of the Innovation Sprint participants received two exclusive certifications to add to their resumes. 

“Anyone can find a free or cheap online certificate program on related topics, but those types of programs often lack the grounding in scientific best practices. Our friends at the Scheer Institute developed and validated this program so that we know this program works. The Innovation Sprints themselves are structured in ways that give students a method for solving problems, and the sprint introduces our students to solving everyday problems through digital solutions,” said Wheeler. 

“Being able to put [the Innovation Sprint] on my resume and on my LinkedIn and being able to talk about the experience is going to be beneficial down the line even though my group didn’t take home the money,” said Aristone. “When an employer asks, ‘What’s the Scheer-Widener Innovation Sprint?’ I’ll have a lot to talk about.”

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