Fall 2020 in Review

Despite the pandemic, it was a busy semester full of exciting projects and events!


  1. End Hype: Startup Traction through Innovation Challenges by American-Made Solar Prize through the U.S. Department of Energy – We were invited to discuss how JMU X-Labs serves as a model for ecosystems and teams that tackle innovation challenges.
  2. The European Higher Education Society (EAIR) – Even though the conference was moved from Ireland to online, our team virtually “went” to Europe to teach a workshop about JMU X-Labs to 30 colleagues from 14 countries on social innovation.
  3. Open Lab – Including t-shirts, ornaments, robotics, 3D printed bear-tracking collars, software and hardware design, and more, with 357 visitors (266 unique).
  4. Pop-Ups – Including face mask design, virtual events, contests, escape rooms, holiday-themed workshops, and take home kits with instructions so students could make their own terrariums, decorations, etc. at home.
  5. Defense Entrepreneurs Forum – The DEF2020 Pivot & Press team invited JMU X-Labs to present on the future of work and innovation.
  6. University of South Florida conference on creativity and innovation – We were invited to this conference to present on our innovation ecosystem.


7. ASU GSV Summit 2020 – We were invited to present No Textbooks, No Lectures, No Right Answers — Is this What Higher Ed Needs? Hacking the Curriculum to Develop Wicked Students!
8. The JMU X-Labs Podcast – Our student interns interviewed various local business owners for the Downtown Harrisonburg Small Business Series.
9. The Powerful Learning Podcast – Faculty from JMU, Michigan State University, and Orbis Communications recorded their first podcast focused on powerful strategies for learning in higher education.
10. Fall Family Fridays – Our student interns created a repertoire of virtual online activities to help the JMU Office of Parent Relations accommodate the Family Weekend shift during the pandemic.
11. 1787 Freshman Orientation – The class of 2024 participated in the JMU X-Labs innovation ecosystem for the first time by designing, creating, and developing their ideas.
12. International Student Workshop (ISW): Cultivating Youth Initiatives – JMU X-Labs partnered with Parahyangan Catholic University in Indonesia to teach design thinking to help students understand key challenges caused by COVID-19.

Featured in the News

  1. JMU Engineering Students Test Self-Driving Cart.” WMRA News. Calvin Pynn. November 20, 2020.
  2. JMU classes use [JMU] X-Labs to make online learning due to COVID-19 more engaging.” The Breeze. Shelby Walker & Maggie Rickerby. November 4, 2020.
  3. JMU students develop autonomous golf cart, retirement homes express interest.” The Breeze. Kamryn Koch. December 10, 2020.
  4. Hacking4Democracy: 2020 Elections Student Course Reflections.” Educating4Democracy. December 7, 2020.
  5. [JMU] X-Labs Counting Down Christmas with Creativity.” Daily News-Record. Kathleen Shaw. November 20, 200.
  6. JMU Studying “Autonomous Vehicles To Benefit The Elderly.” Daily News-Record. Megan Williams. November 18, 2020.
  7. JMU tests out autonomous vehicle aimed to help retirement communities.” WHSV TV-3. John Hood. November 18, 2020.
  8. JMU class uses [JMU X-Labs] to enhance online learning.” The Breeze


Community Innovations

Undergraduate and graduate students and faculty worked with the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to help serve the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population of Harrisonburg and surrounding counties. Teams explored how to collect data about how COVID-19 has affected the economic, social, and health of the ALICE population.

U.S. flag, closed hand with checkbox written on it raised over JMU quad

Hacking for Democracy:
Topics in American Policy

Students addressed complex issues and challenges for the 2020 elections, including how the presidential nominating process and Electoral College structure the game, and the impact and role of political parties, superPACs, interest groups and the media, with a special focus on the increasing role of social media.

Read what students thought about the class here: Hacking4Democracy: 2020 Elections Student Course Reflections

NGA logo

Hacking for Diplomacy

In partnership with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and United Sikhs, student teams developed the following solutions:

  1. Megacities
  2. Sino-Indo Relations
  3. Team Croconile
  4. Team United

JMU College of Visual & Performing Arts logo

Arts Innovations:
Sophomore Studio

In partnership with JMU X-Labs, students from the College of Visual and Performing Arts merged theater and dance with technology to create virtual settings and performances.

Read more about the class in our blog post: The Performing Arts Go Virtual.

Northrop Grumman logo

Internet of Things

Students collaborated with Northrop Grumman to find ways to effectively monitor bears in their natural habitat. The team developed a collar with sensors that measure temperature, location, motion, health, and condition.

Watch the video of their final presentations here:

Final prototype of a mask

Medical Innovations

Student teams did deep research, developed empathy maps, designed prototypes, and performed usability testing to address various challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in several mask prototypes, a website, and app, and an online game to address the following:

  • Constraints to wearing masks
  • College students’ emotional and physical health
  • Encouraging children to be active with their peers, while being safely socially distanced

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is technology using software that mimics the actions of humans. A robot is an executable on a workstation that performs actions that you have taught it to perform and this semester students developed bots to help build student course loads and search for classes at Harrisonburg’s Cecil F. Gilkerson, Community Activities Center.

Read more about the class here: What is Robotic Process Automation?

Salesforce Application Development

In partnership with Deloitte Consulting, students have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn about the industry-popular platform, Salesforce.

Deloitte logo

Published December 17, 2020

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