February 2012

  • Electrical Outlet Marketing Challenge

    February 29, 2012
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    Student Reflection - February 28, 2012

    “Make a product and packaging that a retailer will want in their store.”  This criteria for the Innovation Challenge this week seemed simple enough.  However, everyone had the same inventions to choose from during the competition; the winners were picked purely on how well they could market their product.

    Because most of our focus is usually on inventing and designing a product, it was difficult to switch gears and think about what would get the product sold in a store.  By thinking about the products we personally like to buy, we decided that packaging must be simple and efficient but also appealing to the eye.  We realized that the name and directions should clearly explain the product’s purpose. Through working in this challenge, we discovered that our own experiences as consumers can be a great resource when trying to figure out what the public is looking for in products.

    - Winning post from Emily Hart


    This weeks challenge asked us to create a product mock up. We choose a specific model of an extenson cord and began. It was up to us to determine if we solely made the product or if we would create packaging as well. Right away our team identified a need to create a clever package. Any team can build a model, but the packaging design had the potential to set us apart.Initially, we decided on a hanging design and from there our idea evolved. Each member of the team began to build off of the others ideas. Someone suggested the hanger be in the shape of a plug, then the idea of actually using the plug came up, and then the package was slowly created. This weeks innovation challenge focused on design and the importance of creating a product and packaging that is unique and easily understood by the consumer. We were able to achieve this in a collaborative way, building off of one and others ideas until our final product was something we were all proud of.

    - Becky Mitrovich

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  • Queen Bee Challenge

    February 22, 2012
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    Student Reflection - February 21, 2012

    The Plan

    Today’s challenge was anything but short of blind concentration. At first the real challenge seemed to be that the only person allowed to assemble the tower was blindfolded, while the other group members could only give oral instructions. However, the blindfold barely affected our team due to one of the most important aspects of this challenge: the planning phase. 

    Planning is a key component in any project, and was definitely the most important part of the competition today. Creating a plan before construction began allowed our group to layout steps necessary in constructing a stable tower. The project plan permitted our team to be less dependent on ad lib instruction and more focused on the integrity of our tower’s structure. Today’s challenge exemplified how important a good plan can be when instruction is difficult to give.

    - Kay Bopp, Linda Walthes, Miranda Turlin

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  • Raft Challenge

    February 15, 2012
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    Student Reflection - February 14, 2012

    From Obstacles to Opportunities

    Today’s competition had a few interesting quirks. From cunning sabotage to absolute minimalist designs, the race did not disappoint. Immediately after the rules were explained, one team noticed a loop hole: all items could be purchased and returned for full price as long as they were not damaged. Using this knowledge, they purchased all of the large straws—the items in highest demand—with intent to return them at the end of the design period. Not to be set back, everyone else redesigned using the other, cheaper items. Fortunately their clever plan backfired, leading to cheaper and more innovative designs all around.

    The issue of shortages is often an obstacle in the real world as well. Generally it isn’t from a competing firm purchasing all of the materials, but it can be a hindrance nonetheless. While previously this may have been considered a limitation, we can now see that tough constraints on available materials can actually lead to better, more economical, and most importantly, more innovative designs.

    On a grander scale, hurdles are often seen as an obstruction in the path to creativity. However, considering these hurdles as a challenge to be more innovative can often lead to remarkable designs.

    - Winning Post from Thomas Nalley, Elizabeth Honigfort, Mike McFadden


    Many times in engineering the fastest, safest, or most luxurious design is not needed. Usually the simplest, cheapest design that works is the one used. For example, a typical lock only needs to be able to keep out most people—not criminal masterminds. Similarly in this challenge, there was no advantage to having a faster or safer raft for the Billiken. With that in mind, it was essential to create a strict budget for the raft in addition to keeping track of the other teams’ spending. One problem we encountered was that our design was not complete before buying supplies, so we needed to keep spending to finish the raft. We also overestimated the danger of the Billiken getting wet, further increasing design cost. An interesting psychological effect to note was that we thought the huge spending allowance meant the task would take 30-50% of the budget to successfully complete, but the task itself was actually the easy part. Budgeting was far more difficult with the temptation to “improve” the boat. Had we chosen an unbelievably tight budget and stuck with it, we would have forced ourselves to become more creative instead of relying on dollars to solve our problems.

    - Richard Pham and Ben Minden-Birkenmaier


    When we first received the challenge to make an inexpensive boat, we wanted to make our design out of straws. However, we waited too long to buy the material and the supply of straws ran out. As a result, we had to totally scrap our design and come up with a new idea. Using two feet of duct tape to make a canoe was the most inexpensive design we could think of with the time we had left. No one thought our boat would hold up, so we had to go last during the testing portion of the competition.

    We surprised everyone, though, even ourselves: the duct tape canoe held up! Through this week’s challenge, we learned that if you have to fit a budget, make the material you have work, even if it is not your first choice. We also learned, though, that the cheapest solution to a problem may not be accepted by the public as a safe idea. You must find a balance between cost-efficiency and good design in order to find an answer that will meet everyone’s needs.

    - Emily Hart, Nick Lewchenko, & Christian Barbusa


    One! Two! Three! Sink…Unfortunately our raft did not float. Our creativity for our raft began with large straws. We cut them in half in order to keep our cost down. Next, we weaved the straws to create a platform to support the Billiken. After testing it on the water it sank, so we added three large Popsicle sticks to the bottom for more support. Sadly it sank again in our final run. From our attempt, we learned our raft would have been more successful if it would have had more displaced volume. If we were to do this challenge again we would concentrate less on the cost of the supplies and more on a successful product. In the real world it is important to remember you want the product to be successful to satisfy the customer, even if it means going over budget. This is the most important lesson we took away from the challenge.

    - Kendra Patton, Becky Mitrovich & Annie Radville

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  • Game Theory Innovation Challenge

    February 8, 2012
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    Student Reflection - February 7, 2012

    During this challenge, it became apparent that the games were designed so that two teams cooperating would increase their chance of winning. However, the games were also designed so that tricking another group into thinking that you were cooperating with them and then betraying them would increase your chance of winning even more. The danger of betrayal was so great that although our group debated and even agreed upon cooperating several times, we always took the safe route and “cheated” our opponents.

    The problem with collaborating was that as soon as both teams agreed to collaborate, selfishly writing “cheat” down became the only logical course because it maximized the gain (4 cards instead of 2) while minimizing loss (1 card instead of 0). This “selfishness” was evident in the card auction, where opposing teams wiped out each other’s allowances. We could then bid for the last few cards with little competition. The reason collaboration is possible in real life is that the potential gain of collaboration often far outweighs the possible loss involved because tasks such as running an organization or engaging in scientific research are impossible without widespread collaboration.

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