Photo Courtesy of Alan Sears, COB Communications

Earlier this month, the Grand Challengers, an interdisciplinary team of Tech students, won the Bank of America (BoA) 2013 Campus Challenge, beating  more than 70 teams from various participating schools.

“We won the entire competition by coming up with a new loyalty program that rewards Bank of America’s customers for being financially responsible,” said team member Ethan Smith.

The annual case competition, sponsored by the Global Technology & Operations division of BoA, required students to present solutions to real-world technology and business challenges in the financial services industry.

The team consisted of 10 second-year undergraduate students including Business Administration majors Paul Anderson, Sarah Lynn Bowen and Patrick Kelly; Industrial Engineering Majors Smith, Misha Desai, Alec Kaye and Courtney Hall; Mechanical Engineering Majors Elizabeth Waters and Zac Zachow; and Computer Science Major Alex Stelea. These students are part of the Grand Challenges living and learning community.

Each member of the winning team of Grand Challengers won $5,000 while BoA awarded a gift of $50,000 to Tech.

The competition was split into two rounds. This September, the Grand Challengers competed against nine other Tech teams in the intra-college round. The winners of round one at the 12 participating colleges then competed in round two in early October at the Scheller College of Business.

Each team presented their solutions in a five-page submission including a business case, detailed business and technical requirements, architecture platform description, an explanation of benefits and a five-minute video pitch describing their solution.

“I was a little skeptical of our chances of winning…. I wasn’t sure we had enough experience, both as undergrads competing against upperclassmen and grad students, and also because most of us were competing a decent length outside of our field of study,” Zachow said. “But when we first sat down to tackle the first question… we all walked out and could just feel the energy from our group dynamic. I think that was our main advantage.”

Both rounds’ entries were ranked based on novelty, quality of design, commercial potential, overall functionality and a demonstration of understanding the business and technical requirements of the solution. This year’s challenge questions were focused on data management and new technologies that could improve BOA’s customer rewards and incentive programs.

According to the Campus Challenge website, one comment from judges was, “The simplicity of the solution and focus on the BoA’s core competencies was refreshing, as was the ability to leverage the Bank’s current technology.”

In the future, some Grand Challengers members hope to work together and hope to enter the Campus Challenge again.