Seeking a platform to create a better world of education and opportunity for high school students, St. John’s University sophomore Raiyan Bhuiyan, an Information Technology major from Queens, NY, was invited to participate in the European Innovation Academy (EIA), a three-week study abroad program in Portugal that focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation.
“The application process was remarkably straightforward and it enabled me to arrive with a well-defined purpose and project concepts in mind,” Raiyan recalled. Students were selected from an international pool of applicants and each submitted a short video explaining their motivation for applying to the program.
Upon arrival in Portugal, students were allotted a 48-hour window to conceive an innovative concept and assemble a diverse team of five individuals hailing from various corners of the globe. Raiyan’s EIA cohort was comprised of 500 students representing approximately 85 nationalities and 80 universities.
“I opted to pitch my idea (a virtual reality game platform designed to help high school students explore career paths), so I had the autonomy to assemble a team by engaging with interested individuals as they circulated,” said Raiyan. “In crafting my team, I prioritized a blend of geographical diversity and academic expertise.”
His team included a chief executive officer, chief of product, chief marketing officer, chief technology officer, and chief design officer.
Named “Melior,” Raiyan’s concept would allow students to embark on “career exploration journeys guided by AI-generated recommendations” based on completed surveys.
“I envision creating transformative opportunities for high school and college students that encompasses networking, career exploration, and community engagement,” he said.
Through the game, students navigate diverse, industry-themed buildings and engage in tasks and challenges to accrue points and microcredentials.
“The completion of tasks propels students onto a leaderboard of that industry—highlighting their skills and workability,” he explained. “This leaderboard would be visible to universities and industry partners.”
The ultimate goal of Melior is to make the college application process less stressful for high school students by equipping them with immersive career insights and tangible accomplishments.
“Raiyan stands out as an exceptional student, achieving remarkable milestones in a short timeframe,” said Luca Iandoli, Ph.D., Dean, The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. “Within just three weeks, Raiyan and the team harnessed the potential of virtual reality in ‘Melior,’ coupled with AI-generated recommendations, to lead high school students on a profound journey of career exploration. Melior's forward-thinking strategy not only imparts invaluable skills to students, but also creates pathways for early industry placements and customized educational avenues.”
Looking back on his decision to attend St. John’s, Raiyan explains, “When deciding on a university, I sought a place that would offer me top-tier knowledge and experiences and allow me to relish my time on campus through engagement with diverse programs, organizations, and clubs.”
One tool that Raiyan found useful was The Design Factory, an interdisciplinary product design and learning center located in the Collins College of Professional Studies that connects students, faculty, and industry leaders. “The Design Factory truly prepared me for EIA as faculty helped me design and plan for a startup before I went to Portugal,” he said. “My courses in computer science and economics were also instrumental in sparking my ideas.”
Moving forward, he plans to assemble a dedicated team to propel his concept into a tangible realization. “I am enthusiastic about exploring potential partnerships to gauge their enthusiasm and possible support in bringing Melior to fruition.”
To prospective students considering applying for EIA, Raiyan suggests that they approach the program with an open mind and a thirst for learning. “While you’ll undoubtedly benefit from the structured curriculum, consider the invaluable insights you can gain from your peers,” he offered. “Come prepared with several ideas you’re passionate about, but remain flexible to join teams aligned with your interests.”