• Creative Ideas for Everyday Things Challenge

    February 5, 2016
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    Presentation is key. There’s no getting around it - how you organize and present your information is as important, and maybe even more important, than the content itself. This was the major takeaway at today’s Innovation Challenge of creating a poster for an
    innovative household product.

    My team spent the first thirty minutes of the challenge brainstorming and developing our product - always a mistake because this typically leads to a sloppy and rushed final product. We should have just went with one of our original ideas in the first 15 minutes and ran with it so that we could have had enough time to efficiently develop and present that idea as clearly and creatively as possible. Although the quality of the poster presentation wasn’t noted as part of the judging criteria, it’s well known that we as humans are just naturally more drawn to what’s aesthetically pleasing and clearly organized.

    So while my team’s idea was perhaps as innovative and creative as that of the winners’ their poster was much superior than ours and ultimately perhaps that’s why they won. You could tell that they spent a lot of time on the poster as it was very neat and well drawn and extremely well thought out. Everything complimented each other on the poster and it resulted in a presentation that was incredibly clear and easy to follow - obviously a key in any presentation especially in this one, which didn’t allow for a talking pitch.

    It’s important then that we take this lesson back to everyday life. I can write a paper that has some awesome, original perspectives and ideas in it but if I don’t communicate that clearly and instead submit the paper, as it is -underdeveloped and unorganized - then I probably won’t do well. Similarly if I’m in an interview for a job, that interview is probably more important than my credentials for that job. What I’m really doing is presenting myself - and I should put as much time and effort into making my presentation as unique and professional as possible. For ultimately it doesn’t matter how qualified you are or how great your ideas are, if your presentation is weak then your results likely will be as well.

    Winning Reflection - Daniel Baran

    Leave a Comment

  • True or False Challenge

    January 28, 2016
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    Winning Reflection - Daniel Baran

    Leave a Comment

  • Vegetable Challenge

    January 21, 2016
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    This past weekly innovation challenge involved using different kinds of fruit along with some basic tools to try and make a small boat in water. From previous innovation challenges, my team took the approach to test out our ideas as much as possible to determine the best way to keep not only our boat afloat but the weight as well. We began with many different ideas like hollowing the potato out and using that as our main object to hold the weight and having side struts made of celery to increase the surface area of our boat. Since the tub of water wasn’t ready right away we used the sink in the bathrooms instead to test out our ideas. Quickly our team found that the potato as well as most of the fruits provided didn’t float nearly as well as we had anticipated and our strategy quickly changed. Working together we found that the pepper was the best option and with a similar design as previously mentioned, we designed a pretty good working boat (although it couldn’t hold the weight). Even though we had a nice looking boat, we decided to experiment more. Ultimately it was found that no one was going to be able to build a boat that could hold the weight necessary for the challenge and the main objective was instead to go with the best looking boat overall. Our team didn’t fully get this memo and instead tried our best to keep out boat afloat with the weight in it. As we worked, the fruits provided began to look worse and worse and eventually we settled on the idea of trying to make the boat touch the bottom of the container to make it appear as if it was “floating”. At that point we all realized it would’ve been impossible to make the boat hold the weight but our team still put forth our best effort to make it happen. Even though we were unsuccessful, the project was a great learning experience and our team took full advantage of rapidly prototyping our ideas and testing out as many possible combinations as we could think of.

    Winning Reflection - Michael Reader

    Leave a Comment

  • Gift Box Design Challenge

    December 3, 2015
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    Coming off Thanksgiving break and heading into finals week, this week’s holiday themed innovation challenge was a welcome reminder of what lies ahead in the coming months. Today, we were greeted by sounds of holiday music and the sight of many boxes of present-like items. The assortment of boxes varied in size from a box to hold a watch, to a larger one for headphones. In total, there were about 10 different items. The challenge of the day was to create a box that could hold all of the items. The first tie breaker was determined by whichever team used the least amount of materials, which was determined by weight. The second tie breaker was the aesthetic look of the box. Teams were given a large foam poster board, rulers, tape, glue and a hacksaw blade to craft their box. An additional challenging component to this week’s challenge was that no one could touch the items we were to put in the box, so no one could test their concepts. Teams were given the dimensions of a Rubik’s cube, which was one of the included items, so that size estimations could be made.  Teams were given about 45 minutes to design and build their boxes before the judging period.

    I started participating in this year’s weekly innovation challenges midway through the semester. My first time there, I joined up with a student who I had not met before. We ended up working well together, and have continued to be teammates since then. Throughout the challenges, we have had many good ideas and have come close to winning the challenge. However, we had yet to win this semester. So, we were very determined to win this week’s challenge, the last one of the semester. Pursuant to that goal, we began brainstorming possible ideas about the challenge right when we arrived, even though we had no idea what the challenge was. We thought the challenge may be related to music delivery systems because we saw CD cases, headphones, and a speaker playing Christmas music. Yet, this was not to be the challenge. However, keeping in mind our desire to win, we eagerly took on the box making challenge. First, we estimated the size of the box we would need to create based on the Rubik’s cube as a reference. We knew anyone could make a box that could hold all the items, so we would have to focus on how to do it in a way that minimized the foam board we used. Our initial thoughts, like everyone else’s, centered on making precise estimations of how much space was needed, so that there would be no excess space in the box. Estimating was not too difficult, so this challenge called for something more. That was when I had the idea to separate the foam boards in two. Meaning, we would use the hacksaw blade to cut through the foam that holds the two faces of the board together, resulting in two, almost paper thin, sections. This way, we could still use the same surface area of material, while only measuring in at using half the material on the scale. Often, we think of innovation as a way to build or create. This challenge brought to mind that it is important to acknowledge the assumptions we make when trying to create something new. All of the other teams, and our team at first, made the assumption that the material we were given fit the purposes of the task in its given state. When we think critically about all steps in the innovation process, we can more easily identify assumptions and work to avoid taking building blocks as norms that should be maintained.

    We took the estimates we made and started cutting the foam board. We soon discovered that separating a foam board is a difficult task, especially with a hacksaw blade. Before we knew it, time was running out. While my teammate continued to work on separating the boards, I cut out un-separated boards in the event that we would not be able to finish separating all the sections. As part of our strategy, we chose not to spend time on decorations because the scale used to weigh the boxes was sensitive to a tenth of a gram and the odds that our box would be equal to another team’s box would be relatively low. As time continued to wind down, we were only able to fashion the top and bottom of our box out of separated foam board. The rest of the sides were created from intact boards. We used tape, sparingly, to connect all the boards together. With no time to spare, our box was ready. The first team up failed to fit all the items in the box. The second team was able to fit everything in the box and have a lower weight than the first team. At that point, the judges weighed the boxes first since if they were over the weight of the team that was successful, then they could not win. No other teams weighed in under the first successful team. Despite our box being significantly larger than the successful team’s box, when we weighed in it was only six-tenths of a gram heavier. If we had been able to carry out our plan of separating all of the boards for the box, we almost certainly would have been successful. Yet our efforts went unrewarded, and a competition win eluded my teammate and I yet again.

    I am certain both my teammate and I will return in the spring semester to enjoy the competition of more weekly innovation challenges. Today, I have been thinking about why I enjoy participating in these weekly challenges. I think there are several reasons. The competition is great fun, the ideas I see and hear can be inspiring and the hands on creating process facilitated by these challenges are hard to come by anywhere else. However, I think one of the most important reasons I enjoy these challenges is because I think they align with the Jesuit inspired principle of being a contemplative in action. Each week, we are invited to think critically about an idea, bring our own experiences to the table, work with another teammate from a different field of study, and actively create something new and exciting. Given my reflection on Jesuit principles, the holiday themes, and the many great ideas I have seen produced by the many teams who participate, I think these challenges could be further developed aligned with the Jesuit mission of the University by asking local nonprofits, charitable organizations, schools and/or other community members to propose their own challenges to the teams who participate. This could build community partnerships through applying the challenges and their proposed innovative solutions to the community problems. I look forward to see what is in store next semester!

    Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

    Leave a Comment

  • Rubber Band Boat Challenge

    November 19, 2015
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    This week’s rendition of the Weekly Innovation Challenge was a build project, the engineering majors’ dream, or so you would think. Students were asked to create any type of floating “boat” that could travel, unassisted, the length of rectangular tub filled with water that spanned about three feet long. The boat had to be built only using materials provided by the challenge personnel, which included masking tape in increments of a yard, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and 6”x6” poster board pieces. This week’s twist was that there was a theoretical cost to all the materials, and the judging criterion was cost effectiveness and design elements. So like the real world, you had to not only create a working boat, but you also had to actually budget your build wisely and be efficient as possible with your materials.

    I worked with my usual partner, a public health major, and we felt confident going into this project as I am not only a mechanical engineering major, but also decently knowledgeable in watercraft design. I was very excited to see that the rules and judging criteria were very minimal for this challenge, which allows for a broader spectrum of opportunities to tackle the challenge. I quickly realized as I began to doodle possible designs that though there may be few rules on paper, many more rules of energy, design dynamics, and fluids strongly affected this build. The also very limited building resources contributed greatly to the restraints of the challenge as well, but together the laws of physics and lack of materials opened up a great opportunity for innovation.

    We decided to build a boat that would try to minimize materials, weight, and drag as well as maximize propulsion, steering, and design elements. We ended up making a very feasible design that, like most other challenges, with more time could have worked a lot better. Our boat featured a rotating, four-bladed paddle that was propelled by the potential energy of a fastened rubber band pre-twisted about the paddle. The paddle sat in the cutout middle of the thin boat walls. The edges of the boat were to a point in the front and tapered to a small edge in the back. On the edge in the back, we installed two fastened, parallel rudders about an inch apart for directional control. The design in mind was practical and attainable, but with limited time and lack of quality tools and materials it was hard to put the slightly complicated ideas into reality.  When finally tested, our boat sputtered forward with great hope and quickly lost propulsion as the paddle hit against the sides of the cutout. Our design had not incorporated a way to keep the rotating paddle from hitting the sides of the boat frame as the rubber band unraveled. The ultimate achilles heel’s of our design was that we relied too heavily on tape, a material not suited for wet environments, and the lack of stabilizing features for the paddle.

    The winning design was of a similar concept to use a rotating four-bladed paddle that was much more suited for the wet environment. The boat frame, much more wide than ours, allowed for the rubber band to be stretched more taught and create more potential energy to be converted to kinetic energy for the propulsion of the boat. Their four way blades also featured notched popsicle sticks and no tape, compared to our poster board-popsicle-tape combo. While the winning boat had less aesthetic design elements than ours, it was much more functional and actually almost crossed the length of the tub. The winning design was simple and definitely used fewer materials to create and therefore was very cost-effective. The winning boat of this challenge was certainly the most innovative build produced this week.

    While I didn’t win the grand prize, I certainly learned some valuable lessons. I learned that for these competitions you can create the most revolutionary idea, but if you can’t build it in the time and with the materials allotted, then it’s worthless for the competition. In real life this correlates to the restrictions of modern technology and resources and how you have to truly innovate and push the boundaries in a new way if you want to succeed. I also learned when building a product or service, you need to think about the environment the product will be in and the market the service will benefit. These end goal details have to be thought about and accounted for in the design when undertaking such a project. Another lesson I took away from this challenge was an opportunity to see first hand how the lessons I have learned in physics apply directly to the success or failure of a product. It gave me a real world glimpse of how all the physics classes will definitely pay off in the long run. All that being said, this week’s challenge definitely required true innovation to not only win, but also to compete.

    Winning Reflection - Elliot Boerding

    Leave a Comment

  • Organ Donation Awareness Challenge

    November 12, 2015
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    This time at the Weekly Innovation Challenge, we were tasked with innovating a solution to a problem surrounding the accessibility of a resource, and pitch that idea in 90 seconds. Whether it be corporate competition, geographic barriers, or issues of quantity, this is one of the most common challenges that companies and individuals face. Companies pour millions of dollars into supply chain management strategies and resource security. Without raw goods, their product cannot work to effectively meet a need. This field of work is rife with the evolution of successful innovations. Seemingly, the solution to this challenge would only require a knowledge of how to apply some of the innovations already used by companies to access resources. However, this challenge was about a resource whose accessibility issues have proven to be significant and unwieldy. This resource is found in mass quantities all around the world, yet it is rare to come by in its useful form. This week was all about organs.

    Talking about people’s organs in such a removed and business-like manner, like I did above, seems devoid of respect. Certainly, people who donate organs, and the organs themselves should be treated with more dignity and respect; there are people’s lives at stake. Here in lies one of the biggest challenges of today’s task. How can innovation be balanced with ethical considerations. The organ donation system in the United States is struggling. Each day, 21 people die while waiting for an organ. The solution to this lack of resources is right in front of us. One organ donor can save the lives of 8 people and enhance the lives of dozens of others. Increasing participation is not as easy as saying, “donate them, you won’t be using them you’re you are dead.” Discussing organ donation brings underlying perceptions, fears and religious beliefs about death and dying into the conversation. These are topics many people would rather avoid. They are also topics that people may not be fully educated about. Death and organ harvesting are processes that are both unknown; how are we to know what we would want in a situation that we cannot even imagine. The organ donation system has been around for many years, yet problem of participation still exists. It is all too possible that innovators are looking at this process from the same distant perspective of resources and accessibility. However, this is a people problem. The organs of the living and the dead cannot be removed from the people who make the decision of whether to donate or not. So, progress in this task must take a different approach. A change in thinking; innovation. This innovation comes through the guidance of practical solutions by personal and ethical considerations.

    One example of the necessity of applying innovation that has been guided by ethics involves the proposition given by the winning team this week. The team proposed a solution where prison inmates could receive sentence reductions in return for donating organs. Conceptually, this is a very good idea. There is an ample population of people, with that resource, who would all assumedly want to exchange that resource for a good, in this case, freedom. This would undoubtedly raise the number of organ donations. There are even on site medical facilities to help with the logistics of organ transplantations. Better yet, this system could help the people of rural communities that they are often part of because of their proximity. At face value, this innovative idea
    checks all the marks. However, the boundary between ethics and innovation has been crossed.

    In health care ethics, there is a term to describe groups of people who deserve special attention to ensure that they are treated in an ethical manner. These groups are called “at-risk populations.” Some of these groups are the young, the old, and those who cannot communicate their desires. These people are more at-risk for being taken advantage of by others. Prisoners also fall under this classification. There have been several recent historical cases where the medical profession in the United States has taken advantage of the prison population for research purposes. Prisoners were exposed to a wide array of deadly or debilitating drugs, toxins and environments. This fault lies with the researchers who took advantage of a population who trusted in them, and partook in any effort that may lead to their freedom. Freedom is a value our country has fought for, and died for since its inception. It is not unreasonable to assume that prisoners would put everything on the line in order to regain freedom themselves. Incentivizing organ donation through reduced prison systems changes the decision to donate organs from life giving, to an action that is required if a person wants to regain their own life. Even calling it a decision on the behalf of the prisoner is questionable, as the option is so slanted: have one procedure, so that you can return to a life outside prison. This incentive will not truly innovate a solution to the problem. The problem is that people are afraid, uneducated about the process, or do not have enough opportunities to sign up. This solution does not address these fears or other issues. It merely incentivizes behavior in spite of personal qualms. There are many other problems to think about as well. What are the demographics of our prison system, is it not disproportionately poor, minority populations? A system that sources organs from poor minorities to benefit the lives of people not in prison begs further examination. Also, this solution does not target the problem in a comprehensive manner. One organ donor can save the lives of 8 and improve the lives of dozens of others, if that organ donor has died and many of their organs can be utilized. Prisoners would only be able to offer a limited number of specific organs. This would certainly help some, but not target the needs of organs which are more difficult to come by. Another issue arises if there is only a few organs needed, but many prison donors. Which prisoner gets the chance to donate; the chance at freedom? Good behavior is something every inmate can offer to reduce their time. But not everyone can donate an organ.

    Are others punished more because of their inability to donate? Nowadays, a five-year sentence can be reduced to three years in prison and two years on probation. This is essentially the idea of this solution. But, how long until judges save time and say your sentence is three years and an organ or five years in jail? Organ donation appears to be a cruel or unusual punishment at this point in the timeline, and that thought should not change once someone is already in jail. The ethical considerations do not stop there, but they steer innovation in a different direction, one that considers the people behind the resources.

    Our group, this time a finance major, a mechanical engineer major, and myself, a public health major, combated the issue of organ donation through a plan we called Organ-ize for Life: a social campaign to change the conversation from Death and Dying to Life and Living. Recognizing that education, stigma, and access to decision making comprised of the significant barriers to organ donation, we focused our project on targeted education, social awareness and governmental policy. Our education programs are intended for teenagers and young adults, who are likely to be making the decision to be an organ donor or not. Our campaign targets this population through billboards, television advertising, Facebook posts, and Buzzfeed articles. The topic of these marketing efforts is to raise awareness of the life giving decision organ donation can be. Marketing material would include testimonials from people who received organs and how that has influenced their life. This brings light to lives that can be improved through organ donation. Government policy would address three issues. Creating legally binding documents that allow individuals to create personal organ donation plans would help give people a sense of control over a topic of which they have no control over. Secondly, government policy could provide an estate sales tax break for families of those who pass away and donate organs. This would incentivize the action in a way that reduces the odds of someone making the decision for reasons that affect their own life. Finally, the government could offer organ donation sign-ups on voter ballots. This would increase the opportunity to sign up, as well as the prevalence that people would consider signing up. Our solution focused on creating an environment that promotes everyone to participate in organ donation through focusing on the barriers to education and opportunities to sign up as well as confronting the stigma associated with death and organ donation by changing the conversation from death and dying to life and living through real people’s story. In this way, we are using people, not systems, to solve this people problem. This week’s challenge turned out to be the most thought provoking challenge I have been to yet. An hour partaking in this impromptu challenge turned into hours of discussion with my peers and involved topics that require an intersectionality of professions. This challenge drove discussions of morality, social justice and current events. As Barack Obama aims to change both the federal healthcare system and federal prison system, this topic is especially relevant. Admittedly, I was not expecting the Weekly Innovation Challenge to serve as a platform to discuss and reflect upon issues of this depth. However, after this week, I think I have been approaching the challenges in the wrong way. While this may have been the first challenge that I have recognized the importance of the human and therefore ethical component of innovation, these factors certainly have existed in all challenges of innovation. There is always human capital behind all resources, behind all processes, and behind all ideas, and in front of all implementations of innovation. It is important to always keep this in mind so that people do not become the opponent of innovation, but the guider of innovation.

    Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

    Leave a Comment

  • Rebus Puzzle Challenge

    November 5, 2015
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    This afternoon, I felt very nostalgic as Rebus puzzles were the subject of this week’s Weekly Innovation Challenge hosted by Saint Louis University’s Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology. Rebus puzzles use words, shapes, numbers and symbols to form a pictograph, which reveals a word or phrase when solved. When I was younger, Rebus puzzles would even compete with the comics section of newspapers for my attention. However, it was a love-hate relationship, as feeling of frustration would rival feelings of satisfaction when trying to solve the clever, often difficult puzzles. This week, our challenge was to solve the most puzzles. The challenge was broken into six regular rounds, with two bonus rounds for extra points. For each regular round, teams had 3 minutes to solve a series of six Rebus puzzles, for one point each. This week, there were half a dozen teams with about three members each; which meant plenty of competition.

    In usual fashion, each of our team members had to be pursuing a degree in different major topics. This week I teamed up with students majoring in biology and biochemistry. Having taken many science courses myself as a public health major, our team would have benefitted had the challenge been related to the physical sciences. However, this challenge required us to utilize a more abstract and spatial understanding. We originally thought to split up the six puzzles between the three of us. After the first round, we realized that we had plenty of time to work through them all. So, first, we each looked for ones we knew right off the bat. After consulting each other, we then moved on to ones that we had trouble with. Often, just the act of vocalizing our different thoughts led us to the answer.

    On a surface level, this challenge was enjoyable and reminded me of my childhood, but upon reflection, it revealed itself to hold lessons about innovation. During the challenge, our team commented to each other that we thought this challenge would be significantly harder if we were not so familiar with the English language and its phrases. Our knowledge provided a baseline context for us to then think spatially and creatively while solving the puzzles. However, language has such a structured form in our everyday life that it can be difficult to think and interpret creative forms of language. This experience is not limited to puzzles, however. Within each person’s profession, there is also a unique language and jargon. There are terms, abbreviations, frameworks and methods that are unique to the field and become structured into our everyday lives through repetition and familiarity.  They provide us a way to easily communicate about challenges with our colleagues based on a common knowledge; just like how our team’s knowledge of English helped us solve the puzzle. While this is positive, we also need to be aware of the limitations of this shared language. Sometimes this language can work to funnel our thoughts into structured concepts, instead of looking at them in new and abstract ways. One way to counter this problem is to include members of other disciplines in problem solving teams. This principle, which is supported by the Weekly Innovation Challenge, allows for ideas to be examined in new ways, in conjunction with members of those fields. When we talk and think exclusively in the ways that we were trained by our field, we can also end up isolating people from other professions when they feel left out or feel too uninformed to participate. So, this challenge taught me the importance of balancing problem solving processes we have already formed with problem solving with incorporating new modes of thought to truly innovate. Being half-way through my fourth year at SLU, the Weekly Innovation Challenge provides an unrivaled out of the classroom learning experience that serves to both motivate and enhance my educational experience. I will certainly be back for the next Weekly Innovation Challenge.

    Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

    Leave a Comment

  • Pumpkin Tower Challenge

    October 29, 2015
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    This week’s challenge was thematic to this weekend’s Halloween festivities. Thechallenge was to build a two and a half feet tall freestanding structure that could support a pumpkin, which weighed about four pounds, for 20 seconds. If multiple teams were able to complete this initial objective, than the winner would be chosen based on how scary the structure’s decorations were. To make the structure, teams were limited to using wooden dowels and tape. The structure could then be decorated with markers, paper or candy corn. Teams were given 45 minutes to work before their creations were put to the test.

    Last week, my teammate was a fellow student who I just met at the innovation challenge. I had learned that he was a mechanical engineering major, so as a public health major, I was happy to work with him again this week.  We began this project by drawing several designs of possible structures. We initially thought of building a squared structure upon which we could set the pumpkin. However, this week, we had severely limited resources. At our disposable was a limited number of relatively thin wooden dowels. We also had to build the structure to be two and half feet tall. This made creating support structures very difficult. Facing this problem, we decided to create a triangular structure. This would save on materials, while still providing enough strength to support a pumpkin. We worked together to cut down and tape the dowels together. After creating three long pillars, we fit a triangular hold for the pumpkin which we attached to the top. At this point, our structure was quite flimsy. We then attached smaller wooden pieces around the joints to act as braces. Secondly, we added braces connecting the three pillars of the structure. This process actually took a significant amount of time, and looking around the room, we noticed that other teams were also struggling with creating a viable structure. Soon, we were faced with a serious time crunch as we were trying to level out our structure, while also trying to decorate it. During the 10 minutes of our time, I had been thinking about potential decorations. I thought of taping two markers together at an angle to mimic spider legs. I wanted to attach several pairs of these legs to the structure so that when the pumpkin sat on top it would become the body of a spider; which I learned was a phobia that I shared with my teammate. This plan did not come to fruition as upon discussion, my teammate urged me to continue working on solidifying our structure, given that supporting the pumpkin was the first objective. We discussed this and I ended up agreeing and dedicated my time to the build. It was difficult to balance design with the task at hand, but have a preset list of priorities helped us make the decision to work on the structure first. During that time, we could hear one of the other teams nearby bickering with each other. This did not surprise me as one of the challenge requirements is that team members must be studying different majors. Studying a certain topic area can stream line the thought process and lead to conflict. I think our team worked well together because we had worked together once before and had the opportunity to see and trust in the contributions that we each offered. In the end, we managed to create a structure that we thought would have a fighting chance at supporting the pumpkin.

    There were a wide range of structures created by various teams. Some were triangular, some rectangular, and even some inverted. As several teams faced off against the pumpkin and failed, my partner and I grew excited that we may have a chance at winning. However, ours too fell to the seemingly Great Pumpkin. In fact, at the end, everyone’s creations were reduced to a Frankenstein-esque form of their original selves. Judges then picked the winner based on the decorations. Even though this second criteria was subjective, there clearly was one winner. One structure was donned with a mask of an exam-monster, which threatened ruined GPAs. With midterms past, but finals approaching, who wouldn’t have a fright at this sight? Even though no one was successful with the pumpkin challenge this time, innovation is about taking defeat in stride and being inspired by the events around us.

    Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

    Leave a Comment

  • Sustainability 2020 Challenge

    October 22, 2015
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    For this week’s challenge, we had the opportunity to apply our efforts to support one of the organizations here on SLU’s campus. Representatives from the Center for Sustainability asked us to create and pitch an idea on how to help them in their efforts to reduce the energy consumption of SLU by 20% by the year 2020. They asked us to create an innovation that would involve the everyday behavior of students. They also asked for the innovation to address economic, environmental and social considerations. This topic is important and timely for two reasons. One, sustainability aligns with the Jesuit mission of the university and the call to action regarding the environment in Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical. Secondly, it is “Campus Sustainability Month” on SLU’s campus. This week, I worked on the challenge with a student I had not met before. He was a freshman mechanical engineer student, while I am a senior in the public health program. Together, we had a broad perspective of experiences to approach the challenge.

    For this challenge, we had 45 minutes to prepare a 90 second pitch. We began the challenge by going over the instructions again to ensure that we would create a solution that was pertinent to the task at hand. The main factors we wanted to address were the everyday life of the student and the issues of economic, environmental and social considerations. Then, we brainstormed on what interactions students have with energy on any given day. We thought about issues relating to residence halls; like the energy associated with AC, lights, TV’s and mini-fridges. Then we thought about the dining halls, classrooms, library and the student center. This brainstorming yielded many ideas like regulating lights and AC units, or minimizing power usage in classrooms. However, when we referred back to the goals of the challenge, it was evident that these types of innovations and changes take place as policy on an institutional level, and it isolates students from making everyday decisions to be more sustainable. Regulation of AC, new lights, or new equipment to generate power simply does not involve behavior. When the representatives from the Center for Sustainability first addressed us, they asked, “What is something special going on this month?” Someone, jokingly, said Halloween. No one knew that it was actually campus sustainability month. Seemingly, students should know about a major PR event such as an entire month dedicated to sustainability, especially three weeks into that month. Me and my teammate, picked up on this severe disconnect between policy and student behavior. This reinforced our notion that our solution would not involve another terminal idea like bikes, or recycling. Instead, we wanted to capitalize on the existing policies and structures that the Center for Sustainability has already created.To summarize, there is a disconnect between the actions of the Center and the actions of the students during their everyday life.

    To address this, we modified a public health theory of how to change behavior in relation to sustainability. This theory posits that there is a timeline of behavior which starts at a phase were people are not even aware of the issue at hand. Then, people become aware of the issue. They may not act upon that information, but they contemplate how that information may impact them. Then actions are influenced. Eventually, habits will form and the positive behavior will be maintained over time. It is clear that many students at SLU are still in a stage of unawareness about the problem and the solutions the Center has developed, as evidenced by the lack of knowledge about campus sustainability month. To move along the student population from unawareness to action and eventually long term change, we wanted to implement education programs. One of our specific ideas was to create a SLU101 seminar so that new students entering SLU would be introduced to the energy consumption at SLU and about the resources they have to be better stewards of their environment. A second idea was to create Buzzfeed-like articles to publish in Newslink. An example could be, “20 ways to stay warmer this winter season at SLU,” and it could highlight energy efficient behaviors. These educational resources would help inform students on ways they can actively participate in sustainability efforts. It will also create a culture of awareness around sustainability. I liken what the actions our framework suggests to the recent campaigns surround sexual assault on campuses nationwide. Many of these interventions target educating students about sexual assault prevalence, confronting societal norms and providing resources for students if they encounter or work to prevent sexual assault. Again, these are aimed at creating a mindset and addressing behavior, which our team thinks is necessary if the Center wants to achieve its goal of reducing energy consumption.

    Our idea was extremely cost effective as it pertained to optimizing the current environment of systems through educating the populous in order to change everyday behavior. This framework also directly involves the social component of perceptions and attitudes towards sustainability. Even though we were not named the winners of this challenge, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of incorporating my experiences in public health, the experiences of my teammate as a new SLU student and the goals of the Center for Sustainability. It is always exciting to see how concepts learned in class can have real world implications, even if they are in different fields of study. I look forward to exploring these intersections in the weeks to come at future Weekly Innovation challenges.

    Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

    Leave a Comment

  • Arrange It Challenge

    October 8, 2015
    Posted by Mike
    Share This

    This was my first week this year competing in the innovation challenge. I had competed nearly every week starting in November of last year. I had a team that I did all of the challenges with. However this year I could not get ahold of them so I didn’t do any of the challenges even though I really wanted to. Today I was walking out of MDH and thought to myself, why not? So I  joined two people, I did not know at all, who needed a third member.

    Today’s challenge was a fun one. It wasn’t overly confusing but it was still challenging. With no means of measuring the objects with tools, we were forced to think out of the box to come up with a solution to determine the order of masses. Right away, we threw our heads together and began to brainstorm. For just meeting each other we really got off to a great start. Each one of us contributed to the team equally. We came up with the idea of using the party hat and the wooden dowel as a makeshift scale. The center of the dowel was marked and we began to compare the different objects to determine which was heavier than the other. In order for it to be somewhat accurate, we tried to line up the CG of each object at an equal distance from the center.

    For the second task whenever we would get stuck, one of us would know exactly what it was and about how big. No one member was in charge. Instead we collaborated and threw out our ideas and size estimations, using the process of elimination, until we all agreed on one. For each object, at least one of us knew roughly the size of it. We felt very confident in our answers and we all agreed on what was written down.

    Overall I am very happy that I walked back and participated in this challenge. It was a fun and challenging one. With our teamwork we came out on top (or bottom in terms of score).  I ended up meeting two new friends and from now on we will be a team for future innovation challenges.

    Winning Reflection - Ryan Clabots

    Leave a Comment

Subscribe to the RSS Feed

Archive by Date