In partnership with Linda and Paul McConnell, Ursuline Academy is home to “The 1313 Innovation Center powered by Ursuline.” This initiative is focused on promoting innovation and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit for students of all ages. The latest expansion includes the addition of the 1893 IDEA Studio, which opens in January 2024.

Ursuline Academy’s Innovation Program was and continues to be a trailblazer among Delaware high schools, as one of the first to participate in UD’s EntreX program for high school entrepreneurs. This dual enrollment program earns students 3 college electives and AP Quality points as a rigorous college-level course of study. The electives are fully transferable to any college they attend. Today, there are 33 schools participating in EntreX from Connecticut to Florida. UA is one of 14 EntreX labs in Delaware.

Since Ursuline Academy’s Innovation Program launched in 2016, our students have consistently earned accolades and awards in the Diamond Challenge, a worldwide pitch competition for both social and business innovation ideas. UA teams typically qualify for the semi and final rounds of this highly competitive competition.

Award & Competitions

GI Spy makes Top 9 at UD’s Global Entrepreneurial Competition

Ursuline’s Innovation team consisting of Caroline Randolph, Elle Jerry, and Grace Nkurunziza took their medical app called G.I. Spy to high heights when they placed 9th out of the top 18 teams chosen from within the business innovation track. 62 teams gathered at Clayton Hall at the University of Delaware for the three-day Summit. There were 21 countries and 18 states represented, each with a bright idea to change the world. The caliber of concepts pitched was outstanding with investors and successful entrepreneurs vetting and providing salient feedback for each team.

Speak UP! Awarded Equity in Design

Speak UP is an app that takes your public speaking skills to the next level. Designed similarly to the well-trusted Grammarly(r) app, Speak UP will prompt you about your fluency, rate of speech and pronunciation. This social innovation won Ursuline the “Equity in Design” award from the Diamond Challenge because it proved beneficial to all students, including ESL (English Second Language) who often don’t speak publicly due to lack of confidence in their public speaking skills.

Recent Highlights:

February 2023

Upper School Innovation student, Caroline Peach ‘24 participated in the 2023 DELaunch event hosted by Delaware Entrepreneurship League! She placed 2nd at the statewide competition for the UA Innovation student-created concept, Culture Crate, a subscription-based product that builds cultural awareness among children. Great job, Caroline! Read the news article by

February 2023

8th Grade Innovation has set out to refit Ursuline’s school store, the Raider Closet, with safer and recyclable hangers by Earth Day 2023. The class raised money to purchase cardboard hangers and then partnered with Lower School classes to put positive messaging on them. They were able to replace 100 plastic hangers in the store and donate the plastic ones to Target’s upcycling program.

January 2023

ENTRE-X Innovation Class Is Taking ACTION and Gaining TRACTION! Kaya Blair, Bella Caraballo, and Emily Copeland practiced their social innovation pitch with a panel of experts. The room was filled with professionals who graciously shared their expertise. A big thank you to Drs. Singh Patel and Megan Mickley, Mr. David Liss, Mrs. Donna Masley, Mrs. Andrea Roesser, Mrs. Donna Kinzel, Mr. Patrick Davey, Mrs. Joanna Arat, Mr. Jeffrey Danilak, and Dr. Trisha Medeiros. The insights gained were invaluable to the team. Next steps are to gear up for the trial on Feb. 14—stay tuned!

December 2022

Our Innovation Program’s Leadership Pitch Event for sophomore students was a success! 42 sophomores led pitches categorized by Environment, Community, Society, and Other Issues, which were judged by 6 outside panelists who are community leaders. Congratulations to our Best in Category Winners:

  • Environmental: Claire Kelly “UA Thrift Store”
  • Societal: Ella Holmes “Tune In” podcast
  • Community: Ellie Johnson “Greater than A Player” athlete resource tool
  • Other: Emme Panunto & Lizzie Barnett for their website about Type1 DiabetesWe hope each sophomore will use this Leadership initiative as a launch pad into their junior and senior year service ventures!

October 2022

Upper School Innovation students were invited by Ursuline alumna, Margaret Mecca ‘99 to visit the URBN Headquarters! Emily Copeland, Kaya Blair & Emilie, her French exchange student, and Bella Caraballo were enchanted by the creative surroundings of the URBN headquarters. After touring the vast warehouses of Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie, they were able to interview Margaret Mecca ’99, Head of Technical Design and learn about the URBN Renewal program that repurposes excess fabrics and textiles. These innovative students are aiming to create something special for young, long-term hospital patients that both helps the environment and partners with a local organization.

PS: They even saw a model in action!

September 2022

UA Innovation students attended the DE Connect event and engaged in a Design Sprint for WSFS bank. Besides the chance to meet other entrepreneurial students, Kaya Blair, Emily Copeland, and Bella Caraballo tested their creative abilities in problem solving a real life issue. The students were tasked with finding ways for WSFS bank to engage and attract Gen Zers. The students first brainstormed divergently and then converged on the best idea. Kaya Blair was chosen to present for her team!

“I believe that every time I push myself to do something that feels awkward, or that makes me nervous, I will get better and better at doing it.” Kaya remarked after the event.

Read the Press Release Here

June 2022

Our 7th graders created “Toys that Teach’ as part of their Innovation class. They were tasked with creating various games or toys that engaged different types of learning – kinesthetic, visual, auditory and reading and writing – and our lower school students were the perfect toy testers!

February 2022

Ursuline's Innovation class launched a trial at ChristianaCare for their Patch-It Bear program. These unique bears feature patches that represent the milestones young patients typically reach during their hospital visit. The bears will comfort and motivate the young patients plus help drs nurses! All the bears are made from fabric remnants making these bears sustainable and snuggly! The team consisted of Kaya Blair '24, Isabella Caraballo '24, and Emily Copeland '23. Once the team receives valuable feedback from both the patients and the healthcare team, they will be able to revise their prototypes accordingly and refine their solution.

November 2021

Thank you to alumna Sierra Lundstrom ’14, for her recent Zoom “visit” with our Middle School innovation class. Sierra majored in Zoology at Purdue University. She very generously provided the 7th grade students with feedback on their Bio Mimicry proposals, as well as answered individual questions about animals she has encountered in her career. The Bio Mimicry posters were evaluated in three ways: the clarity of their presentation, the quality of their “What if” statement that would attempt to mimic a feature or behavior of an animal and apply it to a human need, and the feasibility of their idea that would help to solve a consequential problem in the world. Our students learned so much during their Zoom with Sierra who advised them to remain curious and to keep asking questions.

October 2021

Congratulations to Ursuline’s Innovation Class, which includes students from Salesianum through our exchange program, who competed in the University of Delaware ENTRE-X Design Sprint! The team won with their idea, DISCARD CARD, as a way to earn points toward travel and leisure every time you recycle! The design sprint was sponsored by Delaware Waste Management Authority who are looking for solutions to encourage better and more consistent recycling in Delaware. The entire class contributed within a tight 45 minute time frame to create and pitch a feasible idea! The class received $250 with each member of the team receiving a $25 gift card!

May 2021

The 7th grade Innovation class created “old school” fortune tellers that contained messages about what it takes to have an Innovative mindset and sent them over to the 3rd grade. The students wanted to share what lessons they have learned this year by sending a final “toy that teaches.” The note on the package asked 3rd grade to send them something they wanted to share with the 7th graders.

April 2021

The Innovation Showcase was held on our Green, bringing together our student teams and their creations and campaigns. Our Innovation & Leadership Program Director, Mrs. Erin McNichol, opened the event with these words, “When it comes to innovation, be brave, not perfect, which we know to be so very true as we see Ursuline students bravely introduce and launch new and innovative concepts, projects, campaigns, products, and more every day! A special thank you to our guest judges for sharing their industry insights and suggestions! Judges included Ursuline alum, Caroline Randolph ’19, UD Leadership Professor – Dr. Tony Middlebrooks, Director of EntreX – Felicia Harrington, and representatives from Ursuline’s faculty and administration. Sending a special shout-out to Paul & Linda McConnell for their continued support of Ursuline Academy’s 1313 Innovation Program!

April 2021

The 6th Grade Innovation Class hosted their “Be Sweet, Not Sour!” campaign’s lemonade stand selling refreshing cups of lemonade. All proceeds raised were donated to prevent cyberbullying,

April 2021

Congratulations to team Speak UP for winning a social justice and equal opportunity award in the 2021 Diamond Challenge Summit for $1,500 to fund their project! Pictured are our students watching the 2021 Award Ceremony livestream in Ursuline’s 1313 Innovation Lab.

February 2021

Pitches don’t only happen on Shark Tank… Ursuline’s Innovation programs teaches students how to pitch as part of their curriculum! The Innovation class (EntreX Dual Enrollment Class) pitched their ideas to an audience of judges on Tuesday in preparation for their presentation at University of Delaware’s Diamond Challenge Competition. Two concepts, SpeakUP – an interactive app to help students with public speaking, and Extinguish- a one-stop mental health resource for Firefighters and their families, were explained in detail hoping to gain support and investment. Next round of pitches begins on March 3. We wish our young entrepreneurs the best of luck ahead! Speak Up team: Kaitlin Burns, Maria Kennedy, Makenna Mastrota, and Taylor Conkey. Extinguish team: Claire Binkley, Laini McGonigle and Madison Kerley.

February 2020

Congratulations to our Entrepreneur Club’s “Bliss Box” team for placing 1st at Delaware Launch, an entrepreneurial competition at Cab Calloway. Ursuline sent the only 2 all-female teams, “The Bliss Box: A Free kit to Soothe Anxiety Patients” by Bianca Schaen, Audrey Pachuta, and Bridget Lugg and “Logs and Found: Conserving the Monarch Butterfly in your own Backyard” by Ava and Bella Lindia. What an outstanding job by both teams, as well as our team coaches and club moderator.