ACCelerate 2019: Creativity and Innovation Festival

March 22, 2019

Innovation capital

UNC-Chapel Hill students and faculty will visit Washington, DC to exhibit breakthrough ideas at the 2019 ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival.

Innovation Snapshot

The ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival is programmed by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology and the Museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. It is a three-day celebration of creative exploration and research at the nexus of science, engineering, arts, and design.


ACC Schools Participating


UNC-Chapel HIll Innovations Featured


Smithsonian Museum Visitors Over 3 Days

On a visit to anywhere else, hearing someone explain that a secret for stopping global warming is feeding cows more seaweed might elicit a bewildered head scratch. And, under normal circumstances, you’d have the same quizzical reaction if someone told you that one of our best bets for keeping local communities safe is combining the power of advanced computer models and…oysters. Never mind the discussion that our ability to affect future environmental and economic good may revolve around handbags, purses and the latest fashion styles. Yet, over three days at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, such conversations are the norm. This is where six student and faculty teams will represent the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill at the ACCelerate Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival The premier event in Washington, D.C. brings the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most innovative minds to the nation’s capital to celebrate the creative exploration and research happening at the intersection of science, engineering, arts and design.

Led by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, the UNC-Chapel Hill delegation will represent some of the most pioneering ideas at Carolina. They’ll also engage and collaborate with innovators from 14 other ACC schools to explore new interdisciplinary technologies developed to address global challenges. Ventures and innovation initiatives representing Carolina will inspire and inform attendees about pressing environmental and social issues through a series of exhibits and performances.

For more information about the ACCelerate Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival, April 5-7, visit the event website.

Having the opportunity to work alongside these accomplished institutions will advance our independent entrepreneurial efforts, while simultaneously fostering opportunities for collaboration.

Eliza Harrison ('19)
UNC-Chapel Hill student Eliza Harrison will be one of several presenters who use this tank to demonstrate the relationship between storm surges, oyster reefs and the environmental potential of seaweed.

Shallow Waters Exhibit: Tapping the Potential of Coastal Areas

Three Carolina teams will share their work on several projects that use new technologies and creative applications of science to tap the potential of marine ecosystems to make the most positive human, economic and environmental impact possible. The teams include the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences and Coastal Resilience Center (ADCIRC), Sandbar Oyster Company and Phyta.

ADCIRC  is a system of computer programs that combines information on geography, land cover, meteorology, tides, river flows and waves with the basic laws of physics to predict when, where and to what extent storm surge and flooding will impact coastal areas. Representing ADCIRC is led by Rick Luettich, director of UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences and Coastal Resilience Center.

● Sandbar Oyster Company develops biodegradable surfaces on which oysters can survive and grow through a novel composite material, restoring and protecting oyster reefs and salt marshes. Representing Sandbar Oyster Company is Niels Lindquist, company co-founder and a professor at UNC Institute of Marine Sciences.


Phyta designs new strategies for seaweed cultivation to promote plastic substitutes, climate resilience and economic development. Representing Phyta are UNC-Chapel Hill students Eliza Harrison and Emily Kian.

“The Phyta team is thrilled to join two other transformational companies, Sandbar and ADCIRC, to represent UNC at the ACCelerate festival,” said Eliza Harrison, who is a UNC-Chapel Hill student and co-founder of Phyta. “Having the opportunity to work alongside these accomplished institutions will advance our independent entrepreneurial efforts, while simultaneously fostering opportunities for collaboration. Actively participating in the dynamic and innovative environment of the festival, our partner teams will be a sounding board and creative partner — helping us refine the narrative, mission and business objectives associated with our work.”

Fashion Movement Exhibit: The Trend Toward Sustainability and Impact

Two UNC teams will share insights into how sustainability and social impact can be the most notable new styles in the fashion industry. Those teams include Fashion Good and the Phoenyx Project.

Fashion Good explores the impact of fashion production, marketing and sales through the lens of major global brands, looking at environmental effects, socio-economic issues and the use of media. Representing Fashion Good are Dana McMahan and a team of her media and journalism students. McMahan is a professor of the practice at UNC School of Media & Journalism.

The Phoenyx Project creates cosmetic and toiletry bags from recycled billboard material. It harnesses the positive proprieties of billboard vinyl such as the material’s strength and flexibility to create products that are dependable, lightweight and waterproof. Representing the Phoenyx Project is Ana Soule, student founder of the initiative.

Featured Performance: The Talk

The Talk is an eclectic theatrical experience that weaves together interactive theater, a dynamic embodied performance and a multi-media production. It is written and performed by Sonny Kelly, a doctoral student in the UNC Department of Communications. The performance is about returning to memories (timelessly sacred, roguishly painful, and immediately poignant), returning to the ancestors, returning to faith and reckoning with an often confusing contemporary composite truth. 

“Representing UNC Chapel Hill’s commitment to light, liberty, and innovation at the ACCelerate festival is truly a dream come true! I wrote The Talk with the hope of eventually performing it around the nation. The message that I share through this performative experience is one of the indomitable power of a daddy’s love and the undaunting hope that can spring from radical optimism. I’m excited to lead a post-show talk-back where the audience and I can examine where we’ve been, evaluate where we are and explore where we can go with regard to race relations in America.”

The Talk is directed by Joseph Megel with video design by Zavier Taylor, sound design by Michael Betts II and set design by Rob Hamilton.

Sonny Kelly is a scholar, performer, story teller, motivator, speaker, and comedian. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Communication Studies & Performance Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.

"The message that I share through this performative experience is one of the indomitable power of a daddy's love and the undaunting hope that can spring from radical optimism."

Sonny Kelly
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