Huntsville planners tap into city's geeky side with Reddit Q&A input []

Planning for the future means talking to the people and in this Rocket City tech town, those in charge are doing that in a way they haven't before. The Huntsville subreddit has almost 14,000 people using it. City planners are tapping into Huntsville's geeky side to reach more people across platforms.

At local tech and business nonprofit Urban Engine, thinking about the future is the name of the game and using Reddit makes sense. The city just launched their BIG Picture master plan digitally. Now they need to know what questions and concerns you have about your city for the future. 

"I think that's Huntsville's personality," said Toni Eberhart, the Executive Director of Urban Engine. "We've got a lot of people [in the area] who are into technology and they're online."

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NASA’s 2018 International Space Apps Challenge is in the books, and what a weekend it was!

At 200 locations in 75 countries, 17,924 participants took on the Space Apps mission, forming 2,729 teams to submit 1,395 total projects in response to 20 challenges designed by NASA to solve problems here on Earth and in Space.

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Two startups each awarded $50,000 for ideas submitted for “Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Innovation Challenge”

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA, [June 28, 2018] – Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) on June 19th selected two start-ups to receive $50,000 each as part of its “MBUSI Innovation Challenge”, an initiative aimed at engaging Alabama’s thriving startup community to tackle critical challenges faced in automotive production flow management, big data efficiencies, and digital communications.

In April, MBUSI – in partnership with the non-profit ideation accelerator known Urban Engine, the companies STARTUP AUTOBAHN, and The University of Alabama collectively announced the strategic partnership to seek out and inspire creativity to find innovative solutions using creative business strategies, software development, and technology.

Ideas presented by the nine finalists ranged from how to improve the lunch experience of MBUSI Team Members due to time constraints to how to better track vehicles in the parking lots to big data analytics.

“It was extremely inspiring and worthwhile traveling the distance from Germany to Alabama to be a part of the MBUSI Innovation Challenge,” said Markus Schaefer, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain Management.  Schaefer said that Plant Tuscaloosa has come a long way since 1993, and with Industry 4.0, electric vehicles and tools like the MBUSI Innovation Challenge, the plant is taking the next step.

“Our path is clear – we want to change the face of mobility and we want to be the leaders in this arena,” said Schaefer. “The digital tools at our fingertips today present endless opportunities for us and if we want to continue to be # 1 in the future, we have to continue on the path of digital transformation.”

About Mercedes-Benz U.S. International

MBUSI – located in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama – is the production location for the GLE, GLS and GLE Coupe SUVs around the world, as well as the C-Class sedan for North America. In 2017, the plant produced nearly 300,000 vehicles. MBUSI currently employs more than 3,700 team members and supports 7,000+ jobs on the approximately 1,000-acre site. In September 2017, Mercedes-Benz announced another $1 billion investment that will equip the plant in building electric vehicles by the beginning of the next decade. 

About Urban Engine

Urban Engine is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that Propels Ideas Forward by empowering the next generation of thinkers, makers, doers, leaders, and founders to succeed. Urban Engine accelerates economic development through innovation education programming and by connecting aspiring entrepreneurs and established business leadership with educational resources, talent, and community.

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Startups win $100,000 from Mercedes-Benz Innovation Challenge

Startups win $100,000 from Mercedes-Benz Innovation Challenge

Two startups will receive $50,000 after their pitches in the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Innovation Challenge on Tuesday. The event pitted nine companies putting forward ideas through the ideation accelerator known as Urban Engine, and - get this! - the purpose was to improve efficiency at Mercedes-Benz's Vance manufacturing plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

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Startups Pitch Their Ideas to the 2018 MBUSI Innovation Challenge!

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Mercedes-Benz opened its doors to firms from around the world to dream up solutions to challenges on the factory floor. After qualifying their ideas with Urban Engine, engineers and innovators came back to pitch and validate their own ideas during the MBUSI Innovation Challenge Competition!

MBUSI President Jason Hoff said the company decided to take a different approach this time in tackling problem areas around the plant. The idea was to turn lose minds that aren't normally engaged in automotive manufacturing and see what happened.

"This year, (the IT department) came forward and said there's a lot of great companies out there with really cool ideas. Let's present our challenges and see what comes back. It's a new approach for us," Hoff said. "We purposely left the challenges pretty vague and the rest is up to them."

  • Drones that inventory.

  • Augmented reality glasses giving instructions to workers.

  • Artificial intelligence solutions.

  • More efficient lunch breaks.

It was a unique opportunity, said Rahul Chipalkatty, the founder and CEO of Southie, a Boston-based company. Southie came with a pitch on how to deploy robots in logistics centers for smaller, more specialized tasks that may be needed for short periods of time.

Those are a few of the ideas pitched tonight at Mercedes-Benz's Innovation Challenge, a startup competition staged this evening at the Vance plant's training center. Teams were split into startup companies and student & professional groups. Cash prizes will be awarded to winners of the challenge.

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Startups, professionals and students invited to submit ideas for “Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Innovation Challenge” [Tuscaloosa Chamber]

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI), Urban Engine, STARTUP AUTOBAHN, and The University of Alabama have formed a strategic partnership to launch the “MBUSI Innovation Challenge.” The initiative is aimed at engaging Alabama’s thriving college and professional startup community to tackle critical challenges faced in automotive production flow management, big data efficiencies, and digital communications. 

The MBUSI Innovation Challenge seeks to inspire creativity in the automotive sector through collaboration and energize current and next-generation startups and problem-solvers to build innovative solutions using creative business strategies, software development, and technology.

Student challenge participants stand to win a cash price of $5,000, while startups could win their share of up to $50,000 for incubation support, international exposure, and the chance to become a supplier for MBUSI or MBUSI’s parent company, Daimler AG. 

“Innovation is born when you combine a creative solution with the knowledge to execute on it and the necessary data to prove it works,” said MBUSI President and CEO, Jason Hoff. “Innovation is the key to addressing the complex challenges we face every day in an advanced manufacturing environment as we strive to improve quality and efficiency of our processes and systems. Our hope is this Challenge will attract the best and brightest students and startups to the automotive industry to apply their insights and know-how to help drive continuous improvement to help us maintain our competitive advantage.” 

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