Driving Progress: Students Excel at the Forbes Idea Incubator Challenge

Sponsored by Audi in Partnership With NYU Tandon, the Challenge Addressed Women’s Access to Transportation

More than 111 million people watched the New England Patriots triumph over the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI this past February. Chances are good that many of them were fighting back tears in the third quarter, when the automotive company Audi aired a touching 60-second spot called “Daughter,” which featured a young girl competing in a cart race as her father looks on. Standing on the sidelines watching her outwit her opponents, he contemplates a bright future for her — one in which she will be valued every bit as much as her male co-workers. “Progress is for everyone,” the ad concludes.

Audi was not merely paying lip service to the idea of gender equality and female empowerment: the company, which employs the hashtag #driveprogress, has made a practice of encouraging young women to enter the STEM fields, and this October, in partnership NYU Tandon, they sponsored a challenge at the school. During the event, which was presented by Forbes, Tandon’s female students were tasked with developing ways to ensure that reliable, safe, and affordable transportation options were available to women and girls in underserved communities.

At the Forbes Idea Incubator Challenge, women students from NYU Tandon collaborated on innovative projects.

At the Forbes Idea Incubator Challenge, women students from NYU Tandon collaborated on innovative projects.

The 27 participants divided into teams and received high-level mentoring from Jeri Ward, the senior vice president and chief communications officer for Audi of America; and Moira Forbes, the executive vice president of Forbes Media and the publisher of Forbes Woman.

At the end of the event, which was planned as an extension of the 2017 Forbes Women’s Summit, teams presented a seven-minute pitch of their ideas and answered questions from the judges, who included Forbes and Ward, as well as Steven Kuyan of the NYU Tandon Future Labs and Victoria Bill, who oversees the Tandon MakerSpace.

The winning team — comprised of Brittany Kendrick, Aida Mehovic, Camila Morocho, and Emily Muggleton — conceived of a mobile app that would connect women with similar commutes so that they had traveling companions. Cleverly called TogetHER, the app won the team the first-ever Audi Drive Progress Grant of $50,000 in scholarships.

Student teams developed projects related to safety and travel for women.“The Forbes Idea Incubator Challenge was a huge success,” said Assistant Dean for Opportunity Programs Nicole L. Johnson, who helped organize the event. “Professors Phyllis Frankl, Anne Ronan, and Anne-Laure Fayard were instrumental in planning this very noteworthy initiative, and the Tandon student teams did an amazing job — representing the school well and bringing to light the issue of safety in regards to young women and travel.”

Frankl, who has long been at the forefront of the school’s efforts to attract and retain female students, added, “I was extremely impressed by the creativity, technical know-how, and presentation skills all the teams exhibited, as were our partners from Forbes and Audi."

“The Forbes Idea Incubator encouraged innovation, creativity and critical thinking, and that, at its most fundamental level, is how progress happens,” Ward concluded, summing up what female engineers can bring to the workforce — and why that’s so important to us all.