Thinking inside the box may not be common advice, but to Engineering professor Jeffrey Babin, it is the best way to create a product or a service.

Members of Penn’s entrepreneurship community came together at a packed Weiss Tech House on Friday for PennVention’s kick-off event, the Idea Generation Workshop.

PennVention is an annual competition, where student teams develop an entrepreneurial idea for a product or a service. The Idea Generation Workshop was created to allow students to network and learn about the innovation process in an interactive environment.

The event began with brief pitches from seven student organizations, including PennTech, PennApps and Penn’s Interactive Media Group.

After a brief intermission, Babin, an associate director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, took the floor. He focused on the process of conceptualizing an idea stating that “we often think of innovation as something that we sit and squeeze and something comes out …when it basically comes down to people drawing from experiences.”

He also encouraged students to “get in their box” to create products and services that they are interested in.

Babin then split the audience into seven groups and asked each to brainstorm ideas that would solve common problems in their everyday lives.

Many students enjoyed this activity. “I really enjoyed the process of translating problems into products that can be commercialized,” said Justin Meltzer, Wharton junior and president of the Interactive Media Group.

Event organizers emphasized the importance of both the event and PennVention itself. “At the University of Pennsylvania, there’s a lot of students who have ideas … even budding thinkers. PennVention is a great opportunity for them to expose their ideas and help them foster their passion,” said Arushi Goel, PennVention marketing liaison and Engineering sophomore.

PennVention Project Manager and Wharton and College freshman Andrew Hong agreed with Goel, adding that “what separates PennVention from the Wharton Business Competition is that we’re looking for whacky ideas … We want to bring in anyone with an innovative idea.”

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