Texas Tech University

Discoveries to Impact Conference Goes Virtual, Still Awards $225,000

Glenys Young

April 21, 2020

Many of the conference’s public events are already confirmed to return in 2021.

Texas Tech University's annual Discoveries to Impact Week (DTI) brings together participants every year to showcase research, engagement, innovation and business startups; compete for prize money for the best innovations and startup ideas; and hear from numerous thought leaders, intriguing panel discussions and dynamic entrepreneur speakers.

Discoveries to Impact Week 2020 challenged Texas Tech's faculty, staff and students to be responsive to community and societal needs by providing innovative solutions to the complex problems facing our region, state, nation and world. But after all public events for this year's event were canceled due to COVID-19, organizers had to take up that challenge themselves.

The Texas Liberator Project won one of the President's Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Awards.

For the first time, they brought participants face to face virtually – and it was an overwhelming success. Teams, students and faculty worked for a year to position their research, projects and teams for this important annual showcase. Winners took home a combined $225,000 to support scholarly activities.

"Ability and necessity to overcome disruptions are essential tenets of entrepreneurship and innovation, as demonstrated by this year's Discoveries to Impact Conference," said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president. "The leadership of so many, including Kimberly Gramm and Joe Heppert, represents the spirit of the conference and further encourages the creative drive of our students, faculty and staff. I am very proud of the dedication of all involved."

The week's public events represented only a few of the many campus events canceled this semester in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources' Matador Institute of Leadership Engagement (MILE) program received the President's Exemplary Engaged Scholarship Award.

"In spite of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, my colleagues and I remain extremely proud that teams of Texas Tech students, faculty and staff, our dedicated volunteer mentors, and our generous entrepreneur-contributors remained committed to developing and presenting a world-class research, innovation and invention showcase through Texas Tech's virtual Discoveries to Impact conference," said Heppert, vice president for research & innovation. "I am incredibly pleased that the efforts of these individuals were highlighted in this event, and that the virtual venue provided all of our contributors and volunteers with well-deserved recognition for their hard work, These events are integral to the continued maturation of Texas Tech innovation and entrepreneurship programs, as well as to the growth of economic development efforts in Lubbock, West Texas and throughout the nation."

All keynote speakers and most panelists from the public events from the 2020 conference have confirmed their participation for next year. The 2021 Discoveries to Impact conference will take place from March 29 to April 2, 2021.

"Discoveries to Impact, which was to be a week-long showcase of undergraduate research and scholarship, community engagement, entrepreneurship and innovation had to be canceled to protect the safety of the Texas Tech community caused by COVID-19," said Darryl James, vice provost for institutional effectiveness. "Although the coronavirus canceled many portions of DTI, we were able to invoke the innovative spirit of DTI to make some of the events virtual and thus recognize the accomplishments and entrepreneurial nature of our students. We look forward to the 2021 Discoveries to Impact Week to celebrate the accomplishments of Texas Tech students, faculty and staff."

Captivist, an app through which a product's potential customers can find detailed information and analysis of the product's quality and social and environmental impact, is one of the teams chosen for the 2020 Texas Tech Accelerator program.

Texas Tech Accelerator

The Innovation Hub at Research Park awarded a total of $200,000 to the eight startup companies accepted into its 2020 Texas Tech Accelerator program. Four community members, three student teams, and one faculty team gained access to initial seed-funding support, each receiving a $25,000 grant, co-working space, education and team mentoring during the yearlong process designed to help them launch startup companies or discover licensing opportunities based on proven ideas, inventions or intellectual property from university technologies.

One such team is Captivist. Two Texas Tech students and a community member are creating an app through which a product's potential customers can find detailed information and analysis of the product's quality and social and environmental impact. With this, they can make better-informed purchasing decisions.

Center for Integration of STEM Education & Research Scholars

The Center for Integration of STEM Education & Research (CISER) awarded a combined $20,000 to its CISER Scholars who received one of its signature scholarships – the Choc Hutcheson Endowment for Undergraduate Research & Leadership Scholarship, the Allie Clinton Smith Endowment for Undergraduate Research Scholarship, the Dr. Richard L. Blanton Endowment for Undergraduate Research Scholarship, the Gary & Nancy Fish Medical Missions Scholarships or the Dr. Ric Whetstone Medical Mission Scholarship – and the Susan G. Talkmitt Science Motivator Award, which recognizes a teacher, professor, community member or other influential individual who helped motivate and inspire the pursuit of a STEM undergraduate major or future career.

Regional Engaged Scholarship Symposium

University Outreach and Engagement awarded $5,000 to winners of the President's Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Awards, the President's Emerging Engaged Scholarship Award and the President's Exemplary Engaged Scholarship Award. The awards recognize Texas Tech faculty who demonstrate exemplary engagement with community partners through a project or initiative aimed at finding solutions to important social, economic or environmental issues.

Charles Klein in landscape architecture and Kristi Gaines in the Department of Design are two of the leaders of the Coalition for Natural Learning, which received the President's Emerging Engaged Scholarship Award.

For instance, the recipient of the President's Emerging Engaged Scholarship Award is the Coalition for Natural Learning, a collaboration between Texas Tech faculty, Texas state agencies, departments, organizations and child care centers working toward the common goal of creating environments that promote natural learning for children and their caregivers. In addition, environments are designed for people of different abilities with the goal to create equitable spaces.

"We are very proud of the work that these Texas Tech faculty members are doing and the positive impacts their engagement is having on communities in the region and state, as well as on our students," said Birgit Green, director of University Outreach and Engagement.

The awards ceremony will take place in the fall.

Undergraduate Research Conference

The Undergraduate Research Conference (URC), hosted by the Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences (TrUE), normally occurs during Discoveries to Impact Week. This year, it will be held online at a later date.

The URC is one of the largest interdisciplinary undergraduate research conferences in the nation. It brings together more than 300 students to share their knowledge and ingenuity through poster and oral presentations, artistic performances and visual art exhibits representing a broad range of fields, including the humanities, performing arts, biological and chemical sciences, social sciences and physical sciences.

Because of the extraordinary circumstances impacting both students and faculty mentors, submissions will be accepted on a rolling deadline until at least May 1. Digital posters, presentation slides and video presentations will be available on the URC website.