Today was my first time participating in a weekly innovation challenge and the stakes were high. With $1000 on the line, we were asked to create a pill holder design that would hold four pills a day for seven days and would be appropriate to be used by a middle-aged professional. After completing our design, as a team we had 60 seconds to pitch our idea to a variety of judges who could award us 1-4 points in the form of tickets. At the completion of the challenge, the team that had the most points won the challenge.
Since it was my first time participating in the weekly innovation challenge and I was joining an experienced team that participates regularly, I was nervous going into the challenge. I was concerned about finding the aspects of the challenge in which I could contribute the most. However, I found the challenge to be a great opportunity to learn about working in a group of individuals from diverse interests and academic backgrounds. I completed the challenge with an electrical engineer major and a public health major, while I am a communication science and disorders major. The electrical engineer immediately delved into the design of our iRX portable pill container that could be attached to phones, computers, and tablets. He established how the design could be made compact and aesthetically pleasing. In the meantime, the public health major began developing our pitch and coming up with how our product could relate to the overall health of the individual. This link was made by developing an app that the pill container could sync to the user’s phone that could also be synced to other health apps like Fitbit, to track overall health. As someone who is studying to be a speech pathologist, a very patient-based field, I found myself, looking at the challenge from the potential customer’s perspective and how they would perceive our product. I helped develop a design that would be discrete so that medication, something that can often be personal, is not very public and overt. I also encouraged my team to make a product that attaches to a variety of devices, like phones, computers, and tablets to match the life of professionals that is dynamic and fast-paced.
This challenge also provided me an opportunity to reflect on the mistakes that our team made and how we could have better completed the task at hand. Entering the judging portion of the challenge, I was very confident in our design and its many elements. However, as the rotation of judges stopped by our table, I realized it really came down to the pitch. We had only 60 seconds to express all the excitement that we had about the product and brand we had spent the last 45 minutes creating. If we were to do this challenge again, my team would have spent more time developing a dynamic presentation that would have better showcased our design. With only 60 seconds, each second is an opportunity to acquaint the judge with the design you have worked so hard on. I also learned a lot about the challenge by seeing the winning design of an Altoids box that concealed the pills it contained. By seeing this clever design, I was reminded that sometimes it is best to keep things simple. My team came up with many good ideas, however it is important to edit and refine your final design.
Winning Reflection - Kelsey Arnold
Winning Reflection - Jacob Berry
Today’s challenge was very simple, but yet allowed room for artistic and structural creative. We were instructed to make a tower that stood at least two feet tall and could hold a weight (duct tape roll) and withstand wind. The wind was blown at three different speeds from a carpet-drying fan. If both of these minimum requirements were met, then the judging was based off of aesthetics.
Our goal as a team was to focus on the stability first. We wanted to start with a base that was fairly wind resistant. After we assembled that, we focused next on the strength. The tower had to be sturdy enough to hold a weight, so we made sure that we had enough support. However, in hindsight, our mistake came when we altered the shape of our tower to make a platform to accommodate the weight. Originally, we planned on making the top of the tower small than the base to add stability, but we forgot to add more support at the bottom once the top was altered. The mistake was made because we ran out of time in order to do any tests of our structure.
This challenge taught the importance of time management and quality checks for projects. Efficiency is the key to balancing both. Another lesson learned from the challenge is sticking to all of the guidelines that were created at the beginning of the project. Somewhere along the line, we forgot to re-adjust our base for stability like we originally planned and that inevitably doomed us.
Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins
This week’s challenge was the first trivia challenge for the spring 2015 semester. Although the trivia challenges have proved difficult for me in the past, I was determined to stay positive and have fun while learning something new. This is what the weekly innovation challenges mean to me, namely a weekly opportunity to be innovative and challenge myself in a positive learning environment.
This week was particularly exciting as I had a group made of one member from my group last week, and an entirely new member, and myself. Our group did not come up with a strategy for this challenge seeing as it was to determine the name of Fortune 500 companies from riddles as clues. I dare say this may have been part of our downfall since we did not win the challenge! However, even with no strategy other than go for it, our newly formed team was able to collaborate well with each other and there was instantly no embarrassment about lack of knowledge.
The clues ranged from some that seemed obvious to those that seemed more difficult and required some real thought. Each person has his or her own interests and random facts that they remember. Thus, each person was able to answer some of the riddles that completely stumped other members of the group. It was clear in this week’s challenge to see the importance of personal interests and likes! There was an inherent degree of trust among the members of the group. When one member believed a clue to be a certain company, they were able to convince the group of the truthfulness of the answer with no more persuasion than a simple statement of, “I am pretty sure that is the answer”. It wasn’t until towards the end of the allotted time that the group decided the quality of the answer was less important and just any answer would suffice. I will admit that case only applied to 3 clues!
In the end, my group was not successful in winning the challenge. However, I was successful, as I usually am, in pushing myself to be innovative and challenging myself in the positive learning environment created by the weekly innovation challenge!
Winning Reflection - Liz Jolley
To me, this challenge embodied the purpose of the Weekly Innovation Challenges. I believe they encourage us to sharpen our critical thinking and problem-solving skills in order to benefit humanity. The Disaster Relief Challenge is one that has a more direct influence on a real world problem. We were instructed to design a tent or other kind of mobile housing unit that could be used for families displaced by natural disasters, war, and other types of widespread destruction. This consisted of making a small model to display the design and a 90-second pitch to explain why your idea would work.
Our design idea was similar to other tent ideas that exist now, but with added features that would accommodate for long term living possibly without resources. We had a collapsible tent in which the “legs” could fold in for easier handling. In addition, there was a small gutter with filters inside to collect potable rain water. The poles would be made out of carbon fiber to make them strong, yet lightweight. Also, the covering for the structure had zipper doors and windows, with one side fabricated from a highly reflective mirror material such as tin or aluminum to intensify the sun’s heat and use for cooking or heating.
One key point we figured out relatively early is that the pitch is more important than the model. We didn’t want to invest too much time into the model because it wouldn’t fully convey our idea. Only the pitch could do that. So we decided to make a basic model and work on our pitch. We made a poster to accompany our pitch and display ideas our model could not, such as the material specification.
Our downfall was that our idea was not simple enough. The judges mentioned that one of the properties they liked about the winning design was the simplicity. I feel as though if we decided earlier to spend more time on the pitch then the model, we could have had a better chance. Overall, I learned from this challenge that it is important to prioritize which aspects of the challenge to focus on and that sometimes the simplest answer is the best.
Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins
It became evident that the challenge this week would rely primarily on collaboration and teamwork. When the group leader slapped two boxes of straws on our table, we knew we would be in for quite the challenge. Therefore, a strong team was the key to success and little else would play as important a role. We were given the challenge of building a dome with the requirement of supporting a textbook but we had less than an hour to build it. I wanted to be the one to come up with the great ideas but quickly learned it was more than me working on this build. My teammates were actually the ones with the best ideas and it was my willingness to listen and allow them to take the reigns that led us to eventual success.
We realized there were multiple strategies available to accomplish this goal but our main focus was to build a structure that was sure to perform. We effectively made changes on the fly as we ran into design challenges. This gave us the opportunity to rethink the alternative options and carry forward with the best one. For the purpose of this challenge, we successfully accomplished our goals based on the design specifications we chose
Our team was made up of students with a variety of skillsets. One member would focus on design while another would work on implementing that design. The third team member focused on organization so that we could stay on schedule. The best part of our group dynamics is that we were all familiar with working together so we knew how to communicate electively in order to complete the challenge.
Our final product met our initial expectations. When we started with our design, we had a vision for what we wanted it to look like. We successfully built a product we could all be proud of and we made comments on how our professors would be proud as well. This challenge was exceptionally fun because we were able to apply what we learned in the classroom. Whenever we get a chance to showcase our skills, we gain an opportunity to learn in ways we never could have imagined without this forum.
Winning Reflection - Paul Madsen
Today was the last Weekly Innovation Challenge of the semester; before we all focus our energy and creativity on finals. Per usual, I did not know what to expect when I arrived at the challenge this week. It turns out that this week’s challenge was designed to put creative brainstorming to the test. The premise of the challenge was that teams of three had ten minutes to brainstorm and write down unique ways a single piece of paper could be used. Then each team would take a turn announcing one of their ideas, which they think no one else would have thought of. If another team had thought of that same idea, then the announcing team would have to give them a token. Each team started with 40 tokens. So, for example, our team wrote that snowflakes could be made from a piece of paper, think the classic holiday craft. No other team thought of that application, so our team did not have to hand over any tokens. This process repeated several times per team. This constituted the first round. The second round was based on the same rules, but instead of thinking of applications of pieces of paper, teams had to draw objects with the shape of a triangle being the main component. For example, we drew a Christmas tree, a slice of pizza, and a pyramid, among others. Again, teams could pick ideas that they thought were unique, but had to give other teams tokens if others had thought of the same idea. The overall strategy was to have a few very unique ideas, so that you could stump other teams. But it was also to create a lengthy list that would include ideas other teams may think of so that you can collect tokens.
Our team consisted of students majoring in math, electrical engineering and public health. Whereas some challenges, like building structures, may privilege the experience of engineers, or how challenges that require a pitch may be easier for teams with a business major, this challenge leveled the playing field. The challenge was strictly to think out of the box and get a large output of unique ideas. The ideas did not have to be applied to any problem, or suit the needs of any investor. This setup allowed for relatively free expression of ideas. This was a new experience for me during the weekly innovation challenges. Usually, there is some sort of outside influence or judge that mitigates the creativity for innovation. It was interesting that under these circumstances, it almost seemed harder to think of applications of the piece of paper, or objects with a triangle component. I think this was because the challenge lacked a defined purpose or goal. I think this is an important lesson to keep in mind. Without a goal or purpose, it can be easy to become sidetracked and produce ideas that are irrelevant and counterproductive.
While working through the challenge it was also interesting to see the ideas that each team member produced. During the second round, when we had to draw objects with triangles, each of us had a separate piece of paper. Each of us was also working to think outside of the box for shapes and figures to make. However, the math major was drawing images of less than and greater than signs and Pascal’s triangle. The electrical engineer had a drawing of a triangular cell tower. While these objects were certainly unique to me, as the public health major, they were not necessarily unique and out of the box for the individuals who constructed them. This gave me some insight into the idea and challenge of “thinking outside of the box.” I think we need an outside perspective to let us know what truly is outside of the box. It can be easy to have thought processes that are linked by common themes or ideas that we encounter repeatedly, like mathematics, or electrical engineering. However, sometimes it is hard to see the nature of the box that we are stuck in. It could be our major, it could be our background, it could be our aspirations, and it could be a wide range of contexts. So, similar to how it is useful to define goals of a project, it is also beneficial to define, or at least outline, the box of which you are trying to step out of. This way you can have a gauge for creativity. Being innovative and thinking outside of the box does not mean thinking of completely random ideas. There must be a purpose to the brainstorming and the box construct that is being avoided. Without being cognizant of these two factors, innovation can seem like a game of chance and luck, when it, in fact, is composed of careful thought
Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester
As I made my way around the aircraft perched in front of McDonnell Douglas Hall, my eyes rose to a crowd of about forty students, faculty members, and guests crowded around a gleaming beacon of childhood dreams. It made me stop for a moment and take in how special this vantage point was. The contrast of the old prop aircraft and the shiny new Tesla showed how far we have come. The imagination and drive of those who brought both of these vehicles into existence is the same passion I share with many of my colleagues in our pursuit of a goal that started as a dream. I approached today’s challenge with a level of inspiration unrivaled by any other time I ventured into the rotunda for this weekly opportunity. As inspired as I felt at that moment, I was quickly brought back to earth as the judges silenced the crowd to announce the mission of the hour. Instantly, the moment turned into an opportunity to take this creative stimulation and transform it into an unparalleled learning opportunity.
In just a few minutes I grabbed the first few strangers I could find and we formed a team. Teamwork is an incredibly challenging endeavor even in the most well oiled partnerships. A gang of strangers certainly made the lesson of teamwork an important one to learn. We began spitting out ideas as to how we could make a balloon propel a vehicle made of classroom crafts over a distance of five feet. It became a lesson in trust about whose idea to pursue. Creating a vehicle with people operating on totally different wavelengths of thought created an opportunity to establish an efficient method of communication. We had to be straightforward with each other, even to the point of sounding harsh, in order to mesh our thoughts into one cohesive device. Eventually, after a variety of modifications, our team developed a vehicle all of us felt happy with.
It took us on a roller coaster ride of ideas that could hardly be expressed in words. We had to exhaust all methods of communication we had at our disposal. From “back of the envelope” hand sketches to wild contraptions held together at our fingertips, we tried to convince one another why our idea was the best for this undertaking. Eventually, we carefully threw together a prototype that, at the very least, provided some aesthetic reward, seeing as the vehicle would be judged on its looks as well as function. This quickly honed contraption went through about fifteen modifications that the entire team felt would better the craft. It took a level of communication that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. We were concerned about accomplishing a task and we rode our communication skills through to the end. We would have never finished the task had we not learned how to compromise and work constructively toward our goals.
I could point to at least a dozen instances where I felt my idea was the best but had to open up to alternatives because it proved best for the team. The variety of vehicles entered into the competition encapsulated the diversity of solutions to this one challenge. After I took a few moments to listen to my teammates, I realized that they had ideas that were just as good, if not better than my own. I had to realize that none of us were experts on alternative transportation and our innocence led us to obscene ideas as well as brilliant solutions. We eventually did communicate well enough with a high level of open mindedness to accomplish the mission within the time constraint.
I left this challenge with an abundant list of learning points and places I need to improve. Our team finished the task, but unfortunately did not take first place in the competition. However, this does not mean it was a fruitless endeavor for us. We learned so much about how to communicate and work effectively with strangers. There are very few things I would have changed about our approach to the mission. We went in with a plan and felt confident in our design. It just shows the abundance of talent we have here at SLU. This competition provides us with an avenue to advance our talents to a level we may not be able to reach in the classroom. I learned so much about myself and about my classmates today and I will carry those lessons proudly into my future endeavors.
Winning Reflection - Paul Madsen
In today’s challenge, we had to the privilege of working on a project that would have direct impact on a company! Two managers from VSM Abrasives came to explain a process in facilitating their business in which they would like to save time. They showed an 11-12 minute video clip of the loading, cutting, and finishing process of abrasive rolls. The company was interested in saving money in order to keep up with pay increases and maintain product cost. They estimated that they needed to save about 3% on cost, mainly through more efficient use of work time. Our task was to create a sales pitch for an idea that would make either the loading, cutting, or finishing process of prepared abrasive orders for customers more efficient.
Immediately I thought of an idea that could help save time in the loading process! Before I could share the idea, someone in my group came up with the same idea. We could save time by making some sort of rack that could help load the rolls onto the machine faster. The method VSM is currently using requires a worker to use a loop connected to a pulley in order to transfer horizontally aligned abrasive rolls onto a vertical mount on the cutting machine. We decided to have an individual loading rack for each roll that was the same height as the mount on the cutting machine. That way the worker could just slide the rolls on the mount. In addition, we suggested having a magnetic tip on the roll rack to help line up the two poles more efficiently. We felt that if we could avoid having to invert the abrasive roll and line up the hole with the mount, we could save up to a minute per job. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time saved at first glance, but seeing that they perform around 50 roll changes per day on each of the four cutting machines, those minutes add up to a couple of hours utilized more efficiently!
Another teammate had the idea to have a ruler embedded on the cutting table to avoid having to use tape measure. That would save an additional few seconds per order. With these ideas, we were ready to make our pitch! I felt confident after our meeting with the company executives. They genuinely seemed to enjoy our ideas! Unfortunately, other teams had similar ideas as well. One important issue that we overlooked that the winning team addressed is that there is only a limited amount of space in the warehouse. I learned in this challenge that many people may have the same idea to solve a problem, but true innovation comes when you refine that idea to solve the major problem and take into consideration the minor problems that can arise as well.
Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins
Today’s challenge was one of my favorites. To me, it encompassed many aspects of innovation where it challenged the way we think of what we see around us everyday as well as enriching teamwork. It was surprising to see the different, yet interesting, hidden messages in different logos. Although I was familiar with some of the logos and their messages, there were many that I had not realized embedded a message. As the intended learning objectives stated: spark curiosity by observing, effective team communication and keep an open mind, I think my team achieved all of those aspects, and more importantly, we had a fun experience doing that. For example, when a particular logo was presented, we immediately observed and identified it as much as we could. Under the time limit of 30 seconds to 3 minutes, we focused on thinking about the company, its background, and its mission to try to identify what their logo entailed. The time limit was different for each question, some more difficult than others. There were some that were more trivial and we immediately recognized them; needless to say we loved those easy ones. However, those easy ones did not come often, the more challenging ones required more critical thinking and team collaboration in the attempt to reveal its secret message. There were some logos we had to face with where neither of us had any clue of either the logo or the company. Problems like this made us think harder and kept an open mind to try to solve the open-ended questions.
My team consisted of two other teammates whom I’ve never worked with before. However, we did not have any problem communicating and collaborating with each other. We had a common goal which was to solve the problems at hand. Through that goal, we worked closely together, communicated ideas and thoughts to generate solutions to stay competitive in the challenge. The results were rewarding, we achieved many correct answers, we learned how to work in an impromptu situation, and more importantly, we enjoyed the experience of doing so. It was a great challenge and I am looking forward to more fun and exciting challenges in the coming weeks. Thank you!
Winning Reflection - Aaron Phu
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