Budding entrepreneurs and innovators have joined together in a college-wide competition to seek out students’ talent, creativity and ground-breaking ideas at West Nottinghamshire College.
Student FIRST is an initiative launched by the college to reward learners’ initiative and new ideas for both charity and innovation. FIRST stands for Future Innovation Recognising Student Talents.
The competition challenged students from all across the college to showcase five key areas – leadership and teamwork, originality, technology, innovation,  sustainability and environmental or community work.
More than 250 students initially took part in the challenge which began last September giving the groups six months to work on their ideas.
The charity showcase tasked students from each curriculum area to carry out charitable activities of any description, with one successful team from each area shortlisted for the final which took place on Thursday (22 March).
The innovation element challenged learners to formulate creative ideas for any type of activity – from finding an innovative solution to a problem, identifying

a gap in a service and developing the idea through teamwork and research, to setting-up a small business or creating new processes to improve systems or production.
On Thursday, the 27 shortlisted groups joined together to showcase their ideas collectively at the college’s Derby Road campus where they were judged democratically by students as well as a panel of business leaders.
Judges included principal and chief executive Dame Asha Khemka, James Bevan, director of Mansfield Shoe Repairs, Julie Russum from Russum’s catering and clothing suppliers, Russ Booth of RJ Booth Services, Olivia Wood from Framework and Phil Dobson, sales operations director at County Battery Services Ltd.
Winners of the charity category were:

  • Sustainability/environment/community – business students with their ‘Bluebell’ charity idea to create a summer carnival for staff, students and the community to get involved in fundraising and raising awareness.
  • Innovation – motor vehicle with their work on Gambulance, seeing them refurbish old ambulances ready to go on a charity mission to The Gambia next year.
  • Leadership and teamwork – childcare students with their Pink Giraffe fundraising ideas to raise cash for Millie’s Trust.
  • Originality – A Level students’ work on the Great British Booky Dip, where they have collected people’s unwanted books wrapped them in genre orders and people can lucky dip for a cash donation.
  • Technology – business students again with their ‘Bluebell’ idea.

Each team won £100 plus a trophy and the opportunity to go for afternoon tea served up by catering and hospitality students and hosted by Dame Asha.
Winners of the innovation category, who also scooped £100 prize money and a trophy, were as follows:

  • Sustainability/environment/community – A Level students with Recycology
  • Innovation – plumbing students with their ornamental and furniture designs created from old pipework and plumbing ware.
  • Leadership and teamwork – hospitality and tourism students for their hotel takeover mission where they all undertook a variety of roles in a Nottingham hotel for a week.
  • Originality – engineering and transport students for their interactive smoothie bike, created from scratch from old bike parts which could be pedalled to mix-up a healthy smoothie drink and hired out to companies to make income.
  • Technology – b
    usiness students with their ‘Work Space’ creation, which is an app that students can log their work
  • placement experience feedback onto.

Business diploma student Jessica Zapanta, 19, who was part of a group called Survivalists, created a business which supplied festival packs, said: “The Student FIRST Innovation project was a good learning experience. To be able to pitch our ideas to business professionals and get critical feedback was useful; we can apply this to future projects to help support us.
“We were able to enhance our teamwork, organisational and presentation skills which are all useful qualities to have for your future career.”
Student experience team leader Robert Pearce said: “What a fabulous selection of ideas we’ve had for this first-ever Student FIRST competition. Every single group put such effort and imagination into their business and charity ideas that it was a challenge for us to shortlist.
“At the grande finalé the atmosphere was intense and it was great to see all teams together at their showcase. It made me incredibly proud to see just how many amazing minds we have amongst our students which goes to prove they will be an asset to any employer in the future with their wealth of creativity and intuition.”

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