Today we were given a challenge that hit home…literally. The challenge was to come up with an idea to design, build, or create that would make St. Louis the “Gateway to Innovation”. Being born and raised in St. Louis, I felt as though I had an advantage going in to the challenge. I know a lot of the pros and cons to St. Louis so it would be easy to target certain issues I believe are holding us back. The main issue I believe is that no one wants to come here. I brought the idea to my group and they agreed with me. The best way to make St. Louis more innovative is to bring more people/organizations in to the area. In the early 1900’s when St. Louis was the “Gateway to the West”, there were two main reasons why the city was so successful. Those reasons are the location (near the Mississippi River and center of the U.S.) and the events which brought people into the city (Olympics, World’s Fair, etc.). Even with the advancements in transportation, there is still an advantage to being centrally located. Our team felt as though we should aim to come up with an idea to attract more conferences, expos, etc. to make St. Louis a forerunner in innovative studies and ideas.
We decided to use the highly ranked hospitals and universities as an attracting point for St. Louis as a conference location. One problem is that St. Louis does not have a large designated conference center. The America’s Center is the only one and it depends on use of the Edward Jones Dome for large events. We proposed using the Edward Jones Dome solely for conferences to attract bigger organizations. Plans are already in place to give the Rams football team a new home so it would be possible to make this happen. In addition, cost-saving incentives could be used to lure in more organizations.
Our idea, however, was not the winning idea. The winning design proposed the use of turbines to make St. Louis more technologically advanced and look the part as well. Looking back, I wish we had added some element to our proposal that made St. Louis more aesthetically pleasing. One of the key reasons why the city is so recognizable is because of the Arch. I believe the turbine idea won because they incorporated functionality into something that could be used as a cornerstone landmark for the city as well.
Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins
This challenged proved to be pretty tough. A representative from Tesla came and brought one of the cars with him! He explained how small innovations can make a difference, such as the retractable door handle on the Tesla vehicles which improves the aerodynamics of the car. We were instructed to do something similar and make a pitch for an improvement on an everyday item. We have done pitches in the past, but this one was a little different. Usually we are given specific details (items, situations, etc.) to incorporate into our ideas. This time, however, we were given freedom to do… just about anything! Another stipulation in the challenge is that we had to have realistic goals for our idea that could also be easily implemented. For example, we couldn’t make a flying car to avoid traffic. It would require too much money, time, and resources to create and wouldn’t be simple to use. The new or improved product was judged based on its efficiency, cost, feasibility, and impact on sustainability.
Our group decided to try and brainstorm ideas of everyday items we use first. Then, out of that list of items, we tried to think of possible improvements. Unfortunately a lot of the ideas we had were already in existence. We eventually decided to look for problems to everyday items, rather than improvements. Using this method, we were actually able to come up with idea…with only 5-10 minutes to finish our pitch! Our idea was a method to reduce the saline content in recycled water.
In the end I believe we lost because of two main reasons. The first reason is that our product is used often, but not necessarily every day. We proposed using the recycled water for outdoor uses such as watering the lawn and washing the house or car. Not everyone waters their lawn daily, and if so, it’s only during the warmer seasons. Also, people generally wash their car no more than once a week. If we had more time, we would focus on improving a product that is used more frequently. The second reason I believe we lost is because our product focused on a luxury item rather than a necessary item. The winning product was an improved refrigeration unit that limited the amount of cold air released when retrieving an item. This is an item that is used several times a day by most people so the innovation is more impactful.
Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins
When under the constraints of time, sometimes you reason with yourself that you just need to start building and hope that it works out. For some reason there’s this “just do something” motive in our head, that tells us to just get going already! Well fortunately there is also reason, and if there is anything I learned during this lesson it’s that reason should always trump instincts.
After about 10 or so minutes trying to plan a strategy for how to build the step stool my team and I basically just threw our hands up in the hair and went with the “just do something” method. It was, needless to say, a failure. Innovation challenges are always about how you manage your time and a lot of the time if you’re not physically doing something you feel like you’re wasting that precious time and, as is most appropriately true in this case, time is money. And so we just went with it – no real full proof plan, just started cutting 6x8 squares hoping that it would all work out.
What we should’ve done is spent the majority of our time strategizing rather than building. For as long as a time that it takes building a bridge, it takes just as long of time coming up with appropriate architecture to make sure that it will hold cars, finding the right materials to construct the bridge, making sure it’s a reasonable cost, getting the city or state governments on deal with the project, etc. There’s simply a lot of planning involved in any infrastructure project and ours should have been handled the same way. Even though our brainstorming had left us fruitless after 10 minutes we should have devoted more time – maybe another 10 minutes in fact – to more brainstorming. It’s obvious that the team that won, had done the most planning and the least constructing. I was keeping an eye on the other tables and they didn’t end up building until the last 10 minutes and that’s because they had a full-proof plan that they knew through and through and so it would be easy to implement. Ours was exactly the other way around and we lost because of it.
So in life we should plan before we just start doing something. For class scheduling you need to sit down and plan out years in advance instead of just winging it and picking some random classes that might fill a need or interests you – every credit hour counts towards something and you want to make sure you’re maximizing the ones given to you. And in work when I’m given a task by my boss I can’t just hammer it out on a whim. No I need to formulate a strategy for how I am going to tackle that task, just like my abysmal failure at the innovation challenge taught me.
Winning Reflection - Dan Baran
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Winning Reflection - Daniel Baran
This week’s Weekly Innovation Challenge was to describe the type of buyers of specific cars. We were given a list of about 30 cars; each car had different abilities and different target markets.
The hardest part about the challenge was coming up with clues to describe the specific buyer of the car. We were only allowed to give three clues. Many of our clues were very ambiguous. We were faced with the dilemma of either having clues that are too ambiguous or, on the complete opposite of the spectrum, having clues that are very specific and would give the car away immediately. Another challenge was guessing other team’s clues. Often times, other teams were describing the car as opposed to “who would buy the car.”
A strategy we used, that we later found out did not work, was that we would put down what we thought was the car three times. This would have gotten us three points (the max amount of points available per question) however it was a risky guess. As a team we had to all be sure that we were in agreement in order with the car that was being described. What we should have done is gone with the more conservative route and put down three different eclectic guesses that still satisfied the given constraints.
From a business student perspective this challenge was good because we are always putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes. However because not all the contestants did the same it made it a bit more difficult as the car being described had more vague descriptions.
Winning Reflection - Armando Gutierrez
This week’s challenge was a great challenge. All of the challenges make us students think critically and to quickly sift through ideas, but this challenge called upon our limited teaching experiences, classroom management skills, and other various teaching skills. On top of this, it was also an experiment in spacial
design: given a list of things, can they be arranged in such a way as to charge 30+ electronics and have room for 25 children to create and invent. This was, of course, a challenge.
It’s always a pleasure to work on a project that has some amount of relevancy in the real world, though. The opportunity to use these engineering skills that we study so hard to achieve for the betterment of our actual community is invaluable.
As always, teamwork, fast decision-making, and compromise are all important skills to bring to the table to share with team members. Listening can be the best thing that happens. In fact, it usually is anyway.
Winning Reflection - Noah Tanko
This week’s challenge was in conjunction with Atlas Week’s keynote speaker, Derreck Kayongo. After listening to Derreck speak the evening before the challenge, I definitely wanted to participate. The challenge was to pitch and invent a useful item that refugees could use while they are traveling from destination to destination. We were given background information on some of the struggles found in the various refugee camps, but the guest judge Derreck had first hand experience. Since he had been a refugee in Kenya himself, he knew what would work and what wouldn’t.
Our teams struggled a lot to come up with something unique because we thought this was the best direction to go. We opted out of many directions where we knew inventions had already been made. Learning about all of the kids in the refugee camps we chose to invent a soccer ball that held essentials like a water bottle, blanket, and food. Children could carry the ball with them from destination to destination and then unload it and play soccer with it when they were at the camp. After hearing the feedback from Derreck, we realized we had missed out on some key points. Kids are not very good at keeping track of their own items, teenagers steal things, and sometimes the areas are very compact.
The winner of the challenge used biomimicry to create a water filter that was attached to a backpack. This was an awesome solution to the clean water problem commonly faced in Africa. In general, it was great hearing from Derreck because he was so inspirational. He is an entrepreneur, who has helped start The Soap Project to help recycle soap from hotels in the US to be given to people who need it in Africa.
Derreck gave us a lot of good advice and emphasized how important it is to understand the people you are trying to help. Without knowing the lifestyle or need, your invention could really be unrealistic. I hope someday I can be as happy and have as much passion for helping others as Derreck.
Winning Reflection - Kendra Patton
This week’s innovation challenge was centered around the topic of human perception. Teams of three students, of various academic backgrounds, were put to the task of identifying observable changes between before and after pictures, as well as the change through pictures in sequence. Imagine this task to be a mashup of “I Spy” and those “before and after” games in magazines. For the before and after portion of the challenge, teams were told that there were between 4 and 10 changes between the two images. Unfortunately, these changes were no where near as noticeable as the massive amounts of weight lost, or hair gained which we have grown accustomed to based on TV before and after advertisements. Instead, the pictures were primarily of office spaces. Objects in the rooms included chairs, desks, books, computers, office supplies, and sometimes people. The before and after images were shown several times to the teams, afterwards, teams had 30 seconds to turn in a piece of paper with the changes they noticed written down. For the rounds that showed the same scene, with slight alterations, over a 6-8 frame sequence, the images were shown twice, and then the teams had 30 seconds to turn in their descriptions of the changes. Finally, there was a bonus round which consisted of a video that instructed us viewers to pay close attention and count the number of footballs that crossed the screen in 10 seconds. The scores were then calculated based on the number of changes accurately observed and a winning team was announced.
This challenge put everyone on an equal playing field, since no one academic major could be advantageous to identifying the changes that occurred between the pictures. Without an academic foundation to approach this challenge, our team decided to talk strategy and split the picture into quadrants in order to make the challenging task more manageable. Right away, the task seemed quite formidable. There was a lot going on in the picture and it could be overwhelming to try and keep note of all the objects and their placement; not to mention that the short term memory skills were tested to the max by this challenge. After the first two before and after picture rounds, we realized that most of the changes were occurring in the middle of the picture. So, we decided to adapt our strategy. We agreed to each spend a little time at the beginning searching for changes in our respective quadrants, to then turn each of our attention to the middle of the picture so that we could observe the highest number of changes. This strategy worked well, as we began to catch a higher percentage of the changes. Our team communication skills were put to the test by the second component of this challenge, the pictures in sequence. The pictures cycled through rather quickly, which meant that people had to say what changes they had just observed, while still looking at the picture so that they may have a hope at recognizing what will change in the next pictures. Our team designated one person to write the observations down to assist with this task. We felt accomplished as a team because we began recognizing the themes of what would change, such as chair placement, which helped us focus our attention. Overall, we did very well, ending up in second place; we had noticed five less observations than the winning team.
Coming into this challenge, I had heard about and experienced how the brain is not able to accurately comprehend and remember everything about your individual surroundings. However, these experiences or learning exposures were not long in duration, meaning I experienced them, but thought little of it. After this challenge, it was all but impossible to not reflect about the implications about how we remember and focus on details, since this challenge reminded us repeatedly of what our minds had missed for almost an hour. After reflecting on the challenge, I think that there are several insights that I took away from participating. First, I felt mentally exhausted after intently focusing on several, very similar, images of office spaces in the hopes of finding small changes. After awhile, the images began to blur together, and I began to question whether or not a chair had moved, or if it was just something I had seen in another scenario. In many fields, the best way to move forward with a product or a system is to examine what you already have. I imagine that people face the same sort of mental fatigue and blurriness that we experienced when they continually analyze these products and systems as their job. As a team, we had to create a strategy to notice these changes; it took more than one individual. We also had to have clear communication for us to be successful at this task. Additionally, we had to adapt to the conditions we were facing in order to recognize the highest number of changes, even if that meant missing a few smaller changes on the side. For example, in the beginning, our team completely missed the fact that in-between two picture frames a large computer in the middle of the image totally disappeared. We were too focused on finding small changes along the outskirts to notice the major change right in front of us. We also learned that sometimes it is important to take a step back and look at the big picture. When we were all focused on individual quadrants of the picture, we were unaware as a team what trends were occurring. It was not until we looked at the picture as a whole that we realized that we needed to adapt our strategy. So, it is important to keep in mind the lesson that it takes a strategy, communication and the time to look at trends to identify how to move forward with projects. These lessons are also pertinent to another realm of the professional world; communication. When talking with colleagues, it is important that you are on the same page about how the discussion is evolving and where the company/project is going from where it is at. If people are too focused on small segments of the larger discussion, they may feel like they are voicing opposing views since they are not both paying attention to the broader context of the bigger picture. No matter the application for the lessons that I learned today, I think that this challenge proved to be both engaging and educational.
Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester
The challenge this week involved using at least three patents from a list of 24 in a product design that was new and innovative. This product was to solve an issue effecting a majority of society. There were a lot of different patent topics on the list ranging from cars, 3D printing, water filtration straws, to smart watches. As a chemistry student, I was particularly drawn to the “Method and means for the atomizing or distribution of liquid or semiliquid materials” patent. In the end, my team zeroed in on three other patents that we could combine into an actual useful product.
My team consisted of people I had worked with before and this was helpful during the brainstorming process of the group. We were able to collaborate well with each other and listen or pitch ideas without nervousness or embarrassment. We spent a good amount of time coming up with fun and unique ways to combine the patents into our ultimate dream car that even James Bond would be proud of! However, the group realized that the end goal was to solve a societal problem. Once we refocused, we worked backwards.
We started by deciding what problems society faces, then determining which one we wanted to solve. After that it was simple to combine 3 patents into the design of a product to alleviate that problem. The patents we used were the “voice command control and verification system”, the “automatic detection of infectious diseases”, and the “kitchen waste bin” that combined to give the V.A.T.S. product. The Voice Activated Trash Sterilizer would be able to scan biohazardous waste/unsanitary waste for infectious disease and then sterilize them. The device would be hands free so as to minimize the spread of the diseases that can be associated with unsterilized waste. This could be useful for hospitals as well as under-developed countries.
Although in the end my team did not win, we were proud of our product. This challenge also taught us a special lesson; even though something has been invented there may still be a new way to use it!
Winning Reflection - LIz Jolley
This week’s Weekly Innovation Challenge offered interesting insight into the purpose of innovative design. This can be seen very clearly when comparing the design of the winning team to other designs. For me and my team, the opportunity to improve in the future lies in becoming more aware of design steps outside of analysis.
The challenge itself was to “design and build a freestanding lamp” that was to be built only with tape, an LED light, a battery and wire that was provided. The winner was to be selected based on factors from aesthetics and originality to commercial viability.
For our team, we quickly came together to brainstorm how we would make a lamp from tape. We each contributed ideas, deciding to start by building a tripod-style base and make a cone that reflects the light. Altogether, our design was to be like a desk light. A major concern of ours was ensuring that the light had the proper structural integrity. We added colorful tapes to make it more aesthetically appealing.
Though some other teams did traditional style lamps, a few teams stood out with creative designs. Among these designs were a head-lamp shaped like a crown, an airplane lamp, and a lamp in the shape of a fish. The fish-lamp design was selected as the winner. While our team and many others were concerned with the quality of our lamp product, we failed to look at the value for the end user. While there are a huge amount of desk lamps and traditional style lamps on the market, a fish-lamp is new and innovative approach that appeals to the customer.
Ultimately, it is easy to get caught up in what has been done and miss what can be done.
Winning Reflection - Steve Wolfe
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