Winners of Thomas College’s President’s Innovation Challenge pitch competition, from left, were Griffin Mayhew, Elisabeth Sanborn and Shawnna Frost. Submitted photo

WATERVILLE — Teams of Thomas College students competed in the President’s Innovation Challenge on campus the week of April 25. They collaborated with Maine employers and used design thinking for a semester-long project to solve real-world problems, according to a news release from the college.

Winners of the Innovation Challenge pitch competition were Shawnna Frost of Milford, New Hampshire; Griffin Mayhew of Wilton and Elisabeth Sanborn, of Hebron. They worked with Thomas College on a mental health project. They won $1,000 for their first-place win.

“It felt surreal to win this challenge. We have been working so hard for the past 10 weeks on a topic that we are passionate about, and to win the whole competition, it was an incredible moment,” said Frost.

Sanborn said, “This challenge helped me feel so incredibly secure in my abilities to change the world and the place in which I call home. The power and strength that I received from this challenge is unmatched and I cannot wait to apply it in my professional career.”

Amanda Nguyen, program director for the Centers of Innovation at Thomas College, spearheaded this program working with students and employers.

Nguyen said, “Over the past 10 weeks, our students had the opportunity to learn design thinking in order to tackle authentic problems. They were mentored by employer partners and campus administrators who gave feedback, and helped the students develop skills that will make them more career ready. Ultimately, they were empowered to share their feedback and recommendations to project hosts and an audience with Thomas students, staff, faculty, trustees, and special guests — and in a really wonderful end to the day, almost everyone got to hear a commitment from host organizations that their ideas would be implemented.”

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Other employers who were involved with this semester’s innovation challenge were the Maine Department of Corrections / Long Creek Youth Development Center, Waterville Creates, and JMG. Employers collaborated regularly with the students throughout the semester leading up to the pitch competition.

Second place winners, who won $500, included Evelyn Goulette of West Gardiner, Sebastian Holland of Readsboro, Vermont; Nick Linkel of Bowdoin and Tyler Winchester of Bucksport. They collaborated with Long Creek Development Center for their project.

Third place winners, who won $250, included Achen Charles of Portland, Apiyo Charles and Onyx Emelo, all of Portland; and Luul Hassan of Auburn. They collaborated with JMG for their project.

Participants of the President’s Innovation Challenge also earned the Design Thinking digital badge as well as made connections with Maine employers.