Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
"Just FTP It!" was the rallying cry of the winning team in the 1999 MIT Sloan Challenge benefit.
The group of one Sloan student and three executives from Ipswitch Inc. beat 18 other teams of business leaders, entrepreneurs, MBA students and faculty in the contest -- a simulated product launch and test of essential business skills in finance, operations, negotiations, ethics, product development and strategy.
Armed with the latest digital cell phones from lead sponsor Motorola, teams of four prepared the debut of a fictitious product called "CarSmart: the Intelligent Chauffeur," an automobile accessory that gives consumers intelligent shopping capabilities, as well as navigation and safety features now standard in most car computer systems.
The Ipswitch team -- Art Beals, Alex Colsman, Frank Days, and Sloan student Russell Ayan -- edged second-place finishers Solidworks Corp. An all-student team took third place.
More than 100 volunteers helped organize the event, which sent participants in limousines to Boston office buildings for meetings with role players. Teams earned points for managing uncertainty, making good decisions fast and working together. Prizes to winners included Motorola V3620 cell phones, Polaroid PhotoMAX PDC640 digital cameras, illumiNITE jackets from Reflective Technologies and a Microsoft WebTV.
Sloan Dean Richard Schmalensee, a clear fan of the event, made himself part of a "dream team" of veteran entrepreneurs and professors. "The Challenge is a terrific addition to the life of our community, and I plan to spend the day doing what I can to support it," he said.
Sloan MBA student Archan Basu, winner of the 1998 event, said, "Participating in the Sloan Challenge was a blast. Frankly, we learned more about entrepreneurship in one afternoon than I had imagined possible. Our team faced successive hurdles on a whirlwind schedule and against stiff competition from shrewd deans, savvy corporate strategists and agile MBAs."
"This event is a great example of the diverse skills -- teamwork, leadership and creativity -- that we learn at Sloan. It's also a fun day that benefits a serious cause," said student Jennifer Houser, the event's lead organizer.
"Both the Sloan Challenge and City Year are about teamwork and building relationships for the benefit of our community. We are excited about the effectiveness of this event in bringing together the leaders of today and tomorrow in promoting corporate responsibility. City Year is proud to be a part of this great effort," said Robert Lewis Jr., director of City Year Boston.
In addition to Motorola, the corporate sponsors that helped stage the day-long event, which raised over $20,000 for City Year Boston, are Andersen Consulting, Dell Computer Corp., Lucent Technologies, Polaroid and Teradyne. City Year cultivates the leadership skills of young, diverse Americans while uniting them in full-time community service.
A version of this article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 29).