Innovention competition: “Little People, Big World” star makes appearance at NMSU

Feb. 23, 2009 by Denise Nava Original Round Up article

Priscilla Solis and Jonathan Rocha of Carlsbad High School presented their invention to accommodate little people to Matt Roloff, star of "Little People, Big World." Roloff attended the Innoventure convention at Corbett Center Student Union on Friday evening. (Media Credit: Krista Avila)

Priscilla Solis and Jonathan Rocha of Carlsbad High School presented their invention to accommodate little people to Matt Roloff, star of "Little People, Big World." Roloff attended the Innoventure convention at Corbett Center Student Union on Friday evening. (Media Credit: Krista Avila)

The seventh annual Innoventure competition Friday, introduced students to the world of entrepreneurship and business planning. A visit from television star Matt Roloff of TLC’s “Little People, Big World” topped off the event.

“Little people are those of short stature under four feet two inches tall,” Marie Borchert, director of Innoventure and education specialist for the NMSU Arrowhead Center, said. “For a number of years, the advisers to the [competing] teams have requested that we look into having a theme that has to do with people who either have a disability or a disadvantage, physically one way or another.”

With more than 35 middle school and high school teams from around New Mexico competing, the NMSU Arrowhead Center and New Mexico MESA Inc. decided on the objective to create a prototype that would benefit little people.

“This year’s theme is creating an adaptive product for a little person,” Borchert said. “The purpose of Innoventure is to introduce students to the concept of developing a prototype and taking it from an idea all the way through to the market place.”

Borchert explained another important part of the project is students have to write a business plan that goes along with their prototype and create a company model. Lastly, students must present their projects in front of a panel of judges.

Borchert explained how she and other director Sara Sanders were both fans of the television show “Little People, Big World,” so deciding on keynote speaker Roloff was simple.

The TLC show follows the life of Matt Roloff, a little person, and his family in Portland, Ore.

“I’m very impressed and inspired by [Innoventure],” Roloff said. “I think it should be modeled around the United States. There are a lot of kids who don’t learn through the traditional academics, so I think the program is phenomenal.”

With a few more teams participating than in the past, Borchert said the program has grown and has been very well received.

Arrowhead has also spent some time getting the students involved and prepared for the program.

“Students were introduced to the theme and all of the different components for the competition in December,” Borchert said. “With all the different pieces involved, having several months to complete the project is still pretty intense.”

The competition consisted of a judging section, a time for the public to view the projects and a dinner that followed with Roloff’s speech and awards.

“I think the purpose of Innoventure is unbelievable,” Roloff said. “It’s fantastic, and I’m a big supporter. Students are learning the whole business edge and business structure.”

Students had the chance to take pictures and talk with Roloff after judging.

A team from Carlsbad High School had the opportunity to show Roloff their project during his tour of the projects.

“I love [Innoventure],” said Krista Marrs, Carlsbad student and competitor. “Normal people are coming up with something new. Entrepreneurship has the possibility to get our project out there.”

The Carlsbad team came up with the invention of “the grasper” for their project, which was entitled “Just Reach For It.” “The grasper” can be stored in a compartment representing a briefcase.

Jonathan Rocha, Carlsbad team member, explained how researching was the most important component to their project, because they wanted to find out the biggest problem little people face today.

Roloff said it was very fascinating to witness not just the entrepreneurship, but the students having a chance to get established in a formal way early on in their education.

“These business plans were excellent and students can pick that up at a young age,” Roloff said. “It will carry them, and I am sure there are a measurable percentage of these kids that will go on to form their own businesses. Some will go on to invent products and build stuff because of what they did [at Innoventure].”

Due to the struggles people face when having to market their product or invention, Roloff said the formality behind the program of having students create their own business plan is excellent.

“The competition is really exciting and a great experience,” said Elizabeth Dickenson, a high school student and competitor from Ruidoso. “Being in front of the judges was nerve-racking, but I think we did a great job as a team.”

During the awards dinner, Roloff spoke about his struggle to the top and the many obstacles he faced while working in the field of marketing and inventing.

“I have never been more impressed on so many levels,” Roloff said to the crowd. “I have never seen so much innovation, ingenuity, creativity and dedication.”

He told the audience the students working on their Innoventure projects could call themselves inventors.

“[Inventing] always leads to something,” Roloff said. “Eventually you get to a point where it feels like you’ve won the lottery. Keep trying, keep plugging away. You will succeed.”

Walking away with the first prize of a Wii game system was CC Snell Middle School from Bayard and the MMNC team from Chaparral High School with the project “Stair Port.”

“Innoventure teaches [students] a great deal about project management because there are so many parts to their projects and they have to really look at the timeline involved in order to get everything done,” Borchert said. “It encourages the idea that starting your own business is possible and it’s not just something that other people do. If they are really interested in running their own business they can start learning now how it is done.”

Along with entrepreneurship, Borchert said students learn about design and mechanical engineering because they have to build a prototype.

She also said teamwork is vital because not one person can complete the project on their own, and students have to delegate responsibilities with each other and trust that it will actually get done.

For more information about Innoventure or the Arrowhead Center check out or call Borchert at 646-7839.

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