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Teams compete in Sloan Challenge

By successfully launching a new product in four hours, the student/corporate team Victory By Design won the inaugural MIT Sloan Challenge last Friday.

In the unconventional business skills competition and fund-raiser, 20 teams vied against each other to provide innovative solutions to unexpected business crises, such as a newly detected "bug" in the portable noise reduction machine about to be launched.

The Victory By Design team included an MIT alumnus, Allen Frechter (SB '83, SM); a corporate sponsor representative, Kevin Johnson of The Design Continuum; a Harvard Business School student, Bhavin Shah; and Uen-Li Chia, a Sloan MBA student.

All profits from corporate sponsorships will benefit Jobs For Youth-Boston, Inc., Boston's largest nonprofit workforce development training center for underskilled, underemployed youth and adults.

"We've initiated this event to continue building bridges between MIT, Sloan and the community at large," said Paul Cheng, a Sloan MBA student and the competition's lead student organizer. "Being at MIT, everyone knows we understand technology and its applications. The purpose of this event is to demonstrate teamwork and relationship-building."

Each team represented a fictitious company being chauffeured around Boston and Cambridge in an attempt to launch a new product. Teams were armed with Nokia 9000i Communicators (digital palmtop computers that allowed teams to get e-mail, check voicemail, fax memos and search the Internet), Bell Atlantic PCS phones and Polaroid digital cameras while driving around town and meeting with business partners, customers and suppliers.

"Students take the project from conception through execution," said Assistant Professor Nader Tavassoli, director of Sloan's new product and venture development track. "It uses the skills we try to instill in the students: leadership, teamwork, pragmatic business sensibilities. The MIT Sloan Challenge benefits Jobs For Youth -- tomorrow's workers. With the integrated teams of corporate members, students and faculty from across the Institute, it breaks down the barriers of a traditional business school."

At an awards ceremony held at Walker Memorial, the four members of the winning team received Nokia 9000i Communicators. The second- and third-place winners, Diverse Advantage and Price Waterhouse EMC, won Polaroid Digital Cameras and Illuminite Reflective Fleece Jackets.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 13, 1998.

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