Dozens of University of Maryland community members gathered Friday at The Hotel at the University of Maryland for the 2024 inaugural xFoundry Xplore Summit to celebrate the launch of new xFoundry programs.

xFoundry is a new 15-month entrepreneurship program at this university where students can learn from multidisciplinary courses and participate in an annual competition to tackle a societal challenge through technological innovation. Students who win the competition can receive from $250,000 to $2 million in funding for their venture.

Multiple speakers at Friday’s event, including university president Darryll Pines, emphasized the importance of creating a space where students are empowered to innovate and collaborate to solve societal problems.

“When we are challenged as humans, it’s amazing what we’re able to come up with,” Pines said. “You will be able to come up with solutions. You will work together. The human spirit will be inspired. Why? Because you want to make the world a better place.”

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A panel at the launch event discussed some of the program’s potential impacts. Stacey Shulman, Intel’s vice president for health, education and consumer industries, emphasized that participating in a program like xFoundry will help students become better problem solvers.

“It does so much for you in terms of understanding how to take a problem and dissect it in a way that you can get to solving it, with not just technology, but also with the collaboration and the people in your community and your networks,” Shulman said.

Friday’s event also highlighted other aspects of this university’s xFoundry program.

Last fall, xFoundry launched the annual Smart Living Canopy competition to build a living canopy on the terrace of the IDEA Factory. More than 30 architecture students participated in the competition, according to Phillip Alvarez, xFoundry associate director for ventures and partnerships.

“[The terrace] integrates not only the living canopy technology, but also plant health and environmental sensors from computer science faculty, water capture systems from engineering faculty, all built by students,” Alvarez said.

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In the future, the competition will work on adding living canopies to a variety of areas across campus, according to Isabella Laurel, the program’s marketing and communications director.

Event organizers announced that one of the program’s 2025 competition themes is school safety.

Students will develop accessible software to detect and notify students, teachers and administrators of an active shooter threat, according to Jasmine Kelly, xFoundry’s associate director of academic programs.

Event attendees also voted for mental health care to be a competition theme for 2026.

Gloria Reeves, the vice chair of research services for the psychiatry department at this university’s medical school, highlighted the lack of mental healthcare for young adults during her pitch of the theme.

“We know the most common outcome for young adults are difficulties with access, problems with utilization and dealing with stigma of mental health concerns,” Reeves said.