Tech Enterprise team win $10,000 in Ford C3 Go Further Challenge

Photo from From left: Sarah Blum, Zack Lewis, Brandon King and Paul Torola represented Michigan Tech’s ITOxygen team at the Ford College Community Challenge

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech’s ITOxygen Enterprise was one of just ten teams nationwide named as winners of the Ford College Community Challenge, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund.

The team was chosen to receive $25,000 in grant money to implement a project working with a local nonprofit organization. Following the initial selection process, ITOxygen (ITO) was invited to compete in the 10th Anniversary Go Further bonus round challenge.

Representing the Enterprise team, Sarah Blum, Brandon King, Paul Torola, and Zack Lewis, traveled to the Ford world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, to compete, placing third and was awarded an additional $10,000 in grant funding for their project.

Building upon a Michigan Tech Alumnus’ support for Enterprise teams to engage with local community non-profits that benefit the elderly, ITOxygen’s project is focused on increasing the mobility of the elderly community in the Upper Peninsula. Specifically, the project intends to address issues related to inefficiencies in the medical transport services provided by Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFE) in Hancock.

ITO’s student team met with representatives from LBFE this week to discuss the implementation of their proposed medical transportation system and potential uses for the additional $10,000.

Aiming at achieving the goal of LBFE of relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly, along with the goals of the Ford C3, the team is developing a medical transportation management system. Currently, LBFE has limited flexibility to adapt to frequently changing schedules. This ITOxygen-developed system would allow for efficient utilization of Little Brothers’ volunteer network and resource pool.

The management system will create a more flexible and adaptable service, ultimately allowing for elderly residents to retain independence and remain in their own homes and still have access to reliable transportation for medical care.

Russ Louks, a professor of practice in Tech’s School of Business and Economics and adviser for the team, explained how the project teaches IT students to produce opportunities to enhance community life.

“As our population ages, it is so important that we provide ways for them to stay active in the community, and this project will provide Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly with the tools necessary to assist them for many years to come,” he said.

Rick Berkey, director of the Enterprise Program at Michigan Tech, highlighted the educational impact of this partnership.

“The Ford Motor Company Fund serves as a catalyst for ‘making lives better’ by connecting unmet community needs with financial resources, with students serving as the vital link between the two. What a rewarding opportunity for students in the ITOxygen Enterprise to be able to harness their ideas, energy, and talents for the benefit of our local elderly community.”

This was the tenth year of the Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3). This year’s theme was “Making Lives Better.”

Each year up to ten grants are awarded to proposals that identify an unmet community need tied to one of three areas: driving social mobility, changing the way people move and building sustainable communities.