Helping Hands Challenge

October 1, 2012
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Student Reflection - September 26, 2012

The Helping Hands challenge was extremely fun and engaging. Given the prompt and objective of the challenge, I and many other competitors thought it was going to be an easy task to build such a contraption device at first. However, we soon found out that the real-world experience is nothing like imagination as we started the building process. The problem comes in with the limited given materials and resources versus the objects of various properties, including golf-ball size spheres, cylinder tube, heavy thin flash lights, small water bottles, and oval-shape glue bottles, that device has to be able to pick up. At first, many of us were deluded by the simplicity of the “simple” contraption. It had soon come to our realization that it was not so easy when given the constraints and needs that the end product will have to provide.

After carefully reviewing the problem objective and examining the objects the contraption had to pick up, our team spent the first ten minutes brainstorming ideas. The most common idea about the contraption that comes to mind is a tong or a pair of sticks since it could universally be used to pick up various things; hence that is what most other teams did. However, after our team had made the two parallel sticks, we realized that such solution would not be able to sustain the weight of some of the objects due to the requirement that there has to be a certain length from the handle to the grabbing point as well as the flexible wooden beams we were given. Based on the constraints and diversified aspects of the problem, we determined that using a shovel to lift the objects will perform better in this case. Due to the various properties and shapes of the objects, we also had to come up with something to hold the object in place while transferring it on the shovel platform. We had come up with the support handle for that purpose. Each of us worked cooperatively to build the different parts. We focused on our assigned task to create each part at best as well as helping each other as needed. After the building process had been completed, we tested our device to ensure proper operational. Since each object transferred to the target area earned a point and that there were some easier objects than others, we had come up with a strategy for performance in order to obtain as much points as possible in the given time limit. In the end, we successfully transferred all the objects to the targeted area with 20 seconds remaining in the time limit, thus defeating all other teams and won first place.

Through this challenge, it proves to me that, in engineering, there are differences in concept thinking and real-world manufacturing. While in school at Parks, I was taught to take that into account when designing and gathering thoughts to solve any problem. I have also experienced that the world is limited of resources and we as engineers, as well as other intellectual disciplines, have to work with what we have to solve problems in the most efficient and effective way. The concept of the challenge has also taught me to think creatively other than the common consensus. I have also experienced that examining and brainstorming the problem carefully was also an important aspect in solving any problem. The challenge has also given me the opportunity to work in a diversified environment where each of us was able to give and take ideas from each other and ultimately combined into a creative yet effective solution. I strongly believe that this is a very effective way to promote innovation ideas. I really enjoyed the weekly innovation challenge and looking forward to the upcoming weeks.

Winning Reflection - Aaron Phu

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