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HP, Inc. Challenges York College Students to Solve Its Pressing Problems

Photo of Abby's group in the HP Challenge

The week-long immersive course offered a real-world problem-solving experience, and real-world prizes.

On day one, the problem seemed insurmountable. How could a group of five York College of Pennsylvania students–Abigail “Abby” Wurzbach ’23, Rachel Shetterly ’23, Sam Goodman ’22, Jordan Tripp ’22, and Delaney Loucks ’22–who barely knew one another solve a supply chain problem, an issue plaguing industries around the world, for a major company such as HP, Inc.?

Just five days later, the energy was palpable as the students pitched innovative ideas to a panel of HP, Inc. executives.

The York College/Gateway Learning HP, Inc. Challenge launched students into a five-day design sprint, compressing a normally months-long problem-solving process into one week of creative thinking, cultural enrichment, and master classes. It was an exciting, real-world challenge, and just one example of the high-impact, experiential learning happening at York College.

Problem-Solving for the Real World

For Abby the chance to spend a week thinking outside the box was one she couldn’t pass up. A Graham Collaborative Innovation Fellow, she’s had experience in design thinking.

“I really do love that find-the-problem, solve-for-the-problem type thinking,” she says.

Rachel says she hopes “to be able to utilize the Sprint design-thinking process not only here at York, but when I transition into my career.”

The HP, Inc. Challenge was not a typical class; it was a competition. Nineteen students, broken into four teams, were tasked with finding a creative solution to the problem of a stressed supply chain unable to meet the demand for HP, Inc. laptops. The solutions had to align with the company’s values and ideals.

“They get the opportunity to apply what they learned in their classroom settings to solve real-world problems,” says Dr. Jay Azriel, Professor and Chair of Management, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship. He was one of four professors–Drs. Nick Delener, Gerry Patnode, and Mohammed Raja­–who were involved with the project, each paired with a team. “Students learn about having an entrepreneurial mindset to creatively solve a problem.”

Fast-tracked Experience

All the teams were cross-disciplinary. Abby is a Business Administration major, Rachel is majoring in Leadership and Organizational Dynamics with a minor in Marketing, Jordan is an Entrepreneurship major, Sam is a Music Production and Entrepreneurship major, and Delaney is a Supply Chain Operations Management major. Each brought a unique perspective to the problem.

Each day of the sprint had a different focus. Master classes by faculty from Australia to India presented new ideas and concepts, and afternoons were filled with teamwork. It was an immersive experience—eight hours a day of creative thinking and learning.

Rachel says she found it beneficial “to be able to work with mentors and professors from around the globe and learn more about the similarities and differences of business operations worldwide.”

“The sprint absorbs your whole being,” Abby says. “The way your brain thinks in that situation is so different. It’s so exciting getting to come up with creative ideas and as a team to solve problems.”

The team clicked. Delaney “really valued getting to work with my team members and Dr. Azriel. The chemistry between our team was unlike what I had ever experienced considering we were strangers. We all shared a mindset that we wanted to do something innovative.”

The Winning Project

The first day, the team asked loads of questions to fully understand the challenges and priorities of HP, Inc. Later in the week, they met with the company’s executives again to share their storyboard.

“That feedback session was so cool,” Abby says. “We were really able to have a one-on-one conversation with people who run a worldwide company.”

Jordan sums up the excitement and says, “being presented with a challenge with nearly no confines to our solution meant that there was essentially no blueprint to follow throughout this process, and I believe that this is what ultimately allowed us to flourish in our ideation process.”

On the last day, team members pitched their idea: HP Go Green Initiative. Their solution was centered on sustainable, humane practices and how they could impact the supply chain. Their idea of producing the first 100% recycled laptop also would create jobs in low-income areas, aligning with the values of HP, Inc.

“What I valued the most was getting to compete on a team and contribute a solution that encompassed my passion for humanitarian work,” Sam states. “My experience in the HP competition was a great opportunity that allowed for me to challenge myself as not only a student but as an entrepreneur.”

“You could just feel the buzz, the energy between the five of us on the team,” Abby says.

Even before the winner was announced, Abby knew they’d nailed it. And what’s a competition without a prize? Each member of her victorious team will receive a pair of VR goggles, a laptop bag made from recycled bottles, a Bluetooth mouse, and a 4K web camera.

Delaney is proud of their achievement and says, “During this week, we had the opportunity to develop an idea to help solve HP’s current supply chain issues while still remaining true to their values. We came up with an idea, prototyped it, and presented it to the HP executives in a span of five days. It really allowed us to take what we learned in the classroom and apply it to real life.”

What Jordan valued most about this experience was that “it allowed me to work collaboratively with such great teammates that I had never even met before!”

Abby is excited about the prize, but for her, the real win was the experience.

“If I could do what we did that week for the rest of my life,” she says, “I would.”