On Halloween weekend last October, unlike all the costumed students back home at the University of Alabama, Chandra Clark found herself at Pebble Beach in front of a room full of the most influential executive leaders in television and radio broadcasting. She was pitching her award winning idea, “The News Call”, at the National Association of Broadcasters annual Futures event.
Clark’s idea for a digital radio recorder, that would function for radio the way your DVR functions for television, had caught the attention of the industry experts judging the PILOT Innovation Challenge. She was selected to pitch and brought out to the event in order to meet a powerful group of decision makers, winning $10,000 in cash to fund development along the way.
Since the conclusion of last year, Clark has been working to make her idea into reality. Currently she’s participating in the Crimson Innovation Program, a summer program designed to support student and faculty led businesses at the University of Alabama, where she is also an Assistant Professor in the college of communications and information sciences.
Clark sat down with Quesnay’s Sungjee Yoo recently to talk through her experience with the the PILOT Innovation Challenge and to encourage others with great ideas to participate in this year’s challenge before the September 22nd deadline.
Yoo: What was the value you received from the challenge?
Clark: It’s given me the opportunity to explore a problem that I had been seeing for the last year or so in my industry. I’ve worked in the broadcast industry for 25 years as a reporter and producer, and now as a professor I teach future students how to think outside of the box. Through the challenge, I pushed my own innovative thinking about how a concept that could help the industry and the consumer.
Yoo: Why would you recommend the challenge to others?
Clark: The challenge was great for my students to see that I was still learning while teaching.
I teach broadcast news and new media classes, where I’m constantly encouraging my students to think about what’s ahead. Although the students learn the basics, they don’t always know the changes happening in technology and how to get their messages to the public.
My idea could give TV stations a new way to deliver news to the public. I recommend this challenge because it pushes you to think outside of the box and think about a problem that you could solve. What’s the harm in entering a competition and getting feedback? You never know what may happen. I had no idea that I would get selected, and then have the opportunity to speak in front of industry leaders at NAB events in California, Las Vegas, and New York.
Yoo: Could you elaborate more on the opportunities after you won?
Clark: I went to NAB events, such as NAB Futures. There, I could sit and listen to numerous presentations and absorb it all. I then presented my idea on the stage. I’ve never had such exposure to the industry’s leaders in one setting. I now have contacts who are a direct link to the business who are continuing to help me, and they are also willing to speak to my students about the changes happening daily.
Yoo: Who, if any comes to your mind, would be interested in the challenge?
Clark: I’m a member of the Broadcast Education Association which has representatives from colleges and universities around the world. Some of them heard about the challenge and came to my presentation. Then a few approached me about some of their own ideas. I would also promote this to my colleagues and alums working in the broadcast industry. They have the knowledge to make improvements, and they have probably thought about many while out in the field covering news, weather and sports.