Graduate Blog / Graduate Life

Babson’s Disney Imagine-A-Thon

After giving our presentation and listening to five others, my team was excited and anxious to learn who the winner was going to be. Two Babson professors – Professor Caroline Daniels and Professor Ruben Mancha, a representative from Disney – Nigel Simpson, and a representative from littleBits – Michael Kennedy, moved to a corner of the Blank Center to confer about the six pitches of business ideas they had just heard. Finally, after minutes of whispering, murmuring, judging, and speculating, they came back with the announcement. The winner of the 2018 Imagine-A-Thon was our team’s idea – Magic Box, a future set-top box to bring a 4D experience focused on enhancing the new Disney video streaming platform.

Everything started couple months ago, when Professor Daniels and Nigel Simpsons imagined a contest happening at Babson in which students could contribute to a company like Disney by gathering technology innovation ideas. From this original concept, the Imagine-A-Thon was born. Over a day and a half in February, students tackled the challenge of using integrated technology to create the next Disney experience: how would you bring a theme park experience to your home?

Over two sessions, Babson undergraduate and graduate students came to the Blank Center to design the next Disney experience. The first day, I met my team and, although there were some familiar faces from my MBA classes, most of the team was meeting each other for the first time.  Our new team did hit some road bumps at the beginning but we all realized that coming to a single idea was not about how one can support a winning-idea, but how one can contribute a piece of the final consensual idea. What was clear to all of us was that we wanted to use littleBits technology and the functionality of its components would certainly make a difference. However, at the end of the first day we ended with more questions than answers, as the brainstorming process consumed more time than we had expected.

The next day, we met early in the morning and started working with littleBits. We soon realized that regardless of our idea, we would have to connect different interactions into one system in order to present a successful business idea. In my case, I started working with the IoT set, which encompasses a number of electronic components, a smart card that you can connect with your phone, and some sensors. With this set I was able to add functionalities like turning the device on and off, raising the power on a scale from 0 to 100, and even receiving signal from a sensor. These components contributed to a better experience of the user as, for example, the user could change the light intensity through a phone app.

While I was working on the IoT set, my colleagues were connecting screens, sensors, power sources, and using coding screens. As we were using the speaker enabler set, we realized that we could connect it to a phone, and that functionality would allow us to play the music of one of Disney movies. This was a tipping point for us, refining what idea we planned to present – providing the user of the Magic Box with a fun and immersive experience when watching movies. We chose the music from Lion King, knowing our idea would include our speaker sounding, color LEDs turning on and off, sensors hearing noise, and changing light intensity.  The more functionalities we explored, the more we improved the 4D experience with the Magic Box. The IoT controllers of light intensity, color, temperature, and wind translated into a much more attractive product for the customer than what we had imagined at the beginning.

As many companies come to the market thinking about innovation processes, I think that getting started can often pose the hardest decisions, as nobody wants to commit to a direction that can change. However, that is exactly the definition of innovation, keep moving forward regardless of cumbersome intermediate steps. As Walt Elias Disney once said, the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.


Juan has a background in engineering and a second-year MBA at Babson College. Before coming to Babson, Juan was the regional manager for a software company leading company expansion of operations in the Middle East and Africa. He is enthusiastic about most trending technologies such as Cognitive Software, IoT, and blockchain.