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the Wond'ry E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

December 2018

As we wrap up the fall semester, I look back on all of the activities that have occurred at the Wond’ry over the past several months with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Our student, faculty, and staff participants have truly come together, crossing academic disciplines and interests to engage in innovative projects and new endeavors that are now achieving outstanding results.


Our Innovation Garage team went from being introduced to Robotic Process Automation and the ‘future of work’ for the first time in August to ultimately presenting their recommendations on the topic to a room of 500+ subject matter experts as part of RGP Consulting’s annual conference.  I have been so impressed by their dedication and passion to learn. Moreover, I have been amazed by the many individual efforts at the Wond’ry, like Wond’ry student Ambassador Mubarak Ganiyu’s (VU ’21) dedication to teaching himself how to program and build A.I. robots using IBM cutting-edge technologies in our new IBM Watson Hub. Not only has he mastered this subject, but Mubarak is now also leading numerous workshops on these topics for the benefit of the greater Vanderbilt community! In addition to these efforts, we have seen numerous inventions created in our makerspaces, businesses launched via our PreLaunch program, and new partnerships with the Mayor’s Office via our Social Innovations Pillar. All in all, the spirit of innovation is alive here at the Wond’ry!


As we all now take a collective break over the holidays to recharge batteries with friends and loved ones, I encourage all of you to take some time to slow down, reflect, but also actively look for opportunities to improve the world around you.  With these fresh ideas now percolating in your head, I welcome you to come visit the Wond’ry as soon as you return to campus so that we can assist you in turning them then into innovative realities. Anything is possible, if you put your mind to it. We are here to help you on your innovation journey!


All of us at the Wond’ry wish you a safe, restful, and wonderful Holiday Season!


Innovate Onward!


-Robert Grajewski
Evans Family Executive Director of the Wond’ry

Wond’ry Innovation Garage Cohort Presents to Audience of 500

Students from the Wond’ry’s Innovation Garage program presented their research into robotic process automation to corporate sponsor RGP Consulting on Wednesday, December 12, onstage before a packed audience at Opryland Hotel.  The Innovation Garage program sees students investigating solutions for a sponsor company over the course of a year.

The presentation, which took place at RGP’s annual global conference held in Nashville, included scripted performances mixing live action, animation, and recorded video, as well as a segment where an Innovation Garage member was transferred into a robot body.

Fall 2018 PreLaunch Concludes

The Wond’ry’s PreLaunch cohort for Fall 2018 concluded with twelve aspiring entrepreneur teams competing in a pitch competition, with winning teams (pictured above) receiving microgrant funding to continue their entrepreneurial initiatives.  Winning projects included an affordable housing real estate development; a new, more cost-effective electric skateboard; an entertainment platform to encourage diversity in STEM; and a sports-betting algorithm using Twitter sentiment analysis. The Wond’ry’s PreLaunch program teaches customer discovery and market research skills to help students evaluate their ideas’ business potential.

Featured Upcoming Events:

Build Your Own IBM TJBot!

Ever wanted to build a robot who responds to your voice commands?  Led by Wond’ry Ambassador Mubarak Ganiyu (VU ’21), you will build your own robot buddy from scratch, learn how to code it, and make it dance and talk.  Workshops are split into two groups for the spring semester:  Group A will meet on Tuesdays and Group B will meet on Thursdays.  Our next round of workshops will begin with an info session and sign-up event on  January 15, from 6:00-7:00 PM, for Group A, and January 17, from 6:00-7:00 PM for Group B, both on the 3rd floor of the Wond’ry.  Come explore cognitive technologies and programming as you build your own TJBot. It’s all FREE and you get to keep your TJBot at the end! Space is limited, so sign up now!

Group A Signup

Group B Signup


Tikkun Olam Makeathon

Tikkun Olam is Hebrew for repairing the world. In this 72-hour event, small teams of Makers and Need Knowers work to create an innovative, low cost assistive technology to help improve the quality of life of the Need Knower. Makers are typically engineers or individuals with advanced technical skill, while Need Knowers can be individuals living with disabilities, caregivers, or professionals in the field.  January 18, 19, & 20, at the Wond’ry.


Global Game Jam 2019

Global Game Jam is the world’s largest game creation hackathon, taking place at the same time all over the globe.  Nashville Game Developers hosts the annual event, where teams race to completely design and implement a game in just 48 hours.  January 25, 26, & 27, at the Wond’ry.  Pre-Registration required.

Highlights from Recent Events:

Dinner in the Dark

The Wond’ry was proud to host Dinner in the Dark, led by Next Steps at Vanderbilt student and Wond’ry Ambassador Darko Osman.  Simulating the challenges experienced by people with visual impairment, participants were blindfolded as they ate a three-course meal in a darkened room.  At a debriefing afterward, students commented on the challenges of serving oneself from a bowl and finding the food once it was on a plate.  Other participants noted the disorientation of a noisy room without a visual focus, as well as the need for detailed communication to identify dishes and pass food around a crowded table.  This marks the second year that the Wond’ry has hosted the sensory awareness exercise.

In the News:

Our Pillar Programs:

Innovation Garage

In the Innovation Garage, an array of corporate sponsors partner with Vanderbilt student and faculty teams on cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary projects. The goal of this program is to identify disruptive and innovative solutions that improve industry all while providing unique opportunities for students to build their skills via real-world problem solving.

Entrepreneur PreLaunch and PostLaunch

For aspiring Vanderbilt entrepreneurs, the Wond’ry offers a PreLaunch program that provides the foundational knowledge needed to successfully assess an idea, as well as a PostLaunch program aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs that are ready to learn the steps needed to launch a venture. These 7-week programs are now a part of Vanderbilt’s I-Corps Site program for STEM entrepreneurs that provides micro-grant funding from the NSF and access to the National I-Corps program.

Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship

The Social Innovation Program assists students, faculty, and staff with  designing a business model that uses revenue to solve societal issues, from food deserts and poverty to education and affordable housing. Each year, the Wond’ry focuses on partnering with local and regional non-profit and government organizations to lend Vanderbilt’s mental capital in order to develop solutions.

Fostering an Innovation Culture

From artist/music exhibits and speaker series to hackathons and business plan competitions, the Wond’ry hosts workshops, speakers, and events that cater to an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

Past Versions of News from the Wond’ry:

To view past versions of News from the Wond’ry, please visit our website:

Upcoming Events

Holiday Hours
Wond’ry Makerspaces will be closed Dec 17-Jan 7 for Winter Break.  Wond’ry Staff Offices will be closed Dec 24-Jan 1.


Makerspace Safety Seminar
A one-hour course required before accessing Wond’ry Makerspaces.  No reservation required.

Every Monday through Thursday, 7-8pm
the Wond’ry, 2nd floor


Electronic Kit Building Workshop
Learn the basics of working with electronic circuits.

Every Friday, 3-5pm
the Wond’ry, 2nd floor


TJBot Workshop Intro Session – Group A
Learn about IBM TJBots and build your own, FREE.  Group A meets every Tuesday.

January 15, 6-7pm
the Wond’ry 3rd floor


TJBot Workshop Intro Session – Group B
Learn about IBM TJBots and build your own, FREE.  Group B meets every Thursday.

January 17, 6-7pm
the Wond’ry 3rd floor


Tikkun Olam Makeathon
Makers have three days to invent an assistive technology.  Register today!

January 18, 19, & 20
the Wond’ry


Global Game Jam 2019
Programmers, designers, artists, and musicians come together to build a functioning game in only 48 hours.  Sign up now to participate!

January 25, 26, & 27
the Wond’ry 2nd floor


AR/VR Monthly Meetup
Nashville-area VR enthusiasts meet to hang out, discuss advancements in VR, and try out new software.

January 31, 6-8p
the Wond’ry 2nd Floor


Physical Disobedience
Author Sarah Hays Coomer discusses innovative ways to fight against society’s expectations for women’s bodies.

February 6, 6p
the Wond’ry 2nd Floor


Wond’ry Student Engagement Committee

The Wond’ry is looking for students interested in marketing and engagement ideas to help bring the Wond’ry to an even wider audience and give input into future Wond’ry programming. Email theWondry@vanderbilt.edu if interested.

Join the Social Enterprise Alliance

The Social Enterprise Alliance has student memberships available. Memberships will be granted to the first students to inquire and meet Wond’ry qualification guidelines. Email theWondry@vanderbilt.edu if interested.

Apply for the Inaugural Social Innovations Think Tank

The Wond’ry is accepting applications for the inaugural Social Innovations Think Tank. This student group will work with a leading non-profit and a government organization in Nashville to design solutions that improve processes and revenue. To apply, email theWondry@vanderbilt.edu.

2019 AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup 2019 applications open

The AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup is a pitch competition for early-stage hardware startups.  To be eligible, you must be an early-stage hardware startup with at least one physical product component.

Don’t let the term hardware scare you off! Physical products include but are not limited to: manufactured products, IoT/connected devices, health/medical, consumer products, consumer electronics, food, fashion, robotics, etc.

LaunchTN Internship Opportunities

The LaunchTN Internship Program gives students an opportunity to work with an ecosystem builder or growing startup in Tennessee. The diverse experiences and relationships generated by these internships are memorable, enjoyable and highly relevant to anyone pursuing an entrepreneurial path.

Meet Our Mentors

Have a question about intellectual property, commercialization, a business or product idea, professional leadership, etc.? Connect with our network of local Nashville entrepreneurs and business experts, as well as professionals from other departments around campus during their open office hours on the 3rd floor.

Stay Connected

For the most up-to-date information, event reminders, and opportunities connect with us on social media (@theWondry, the Wondry).


Located at:
2414 Highland Avenue
Suite 102
Nashville, TN 37212

Connect with Us

For additional information on the Wond’ry, including office hours, please visit thewondry.com.


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