November 2013

  • Painstorming Challenge

    November 21, 2013
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    Student Reflection - November 20, 2013

    This week’s innovation challenge presented the difficult task of pinpointing and solving a common pain frequent travelers may face while on the go. As a third year WIC participant, I have learned that a key part of innovation is coming up with a unique idea that other teams may not consider. As a result, my group decided to channel our solution towards a traveler people do not normally think about - the truck driver. If they stop overnight, they must keep their truck running to power their heat, AC, refrigeration, etc. This wastes gas, cost companies extra money, and creates more pollution. We proposed a way to harness the truck movement and store a device electrically while driving in order to have a power source later on that did not require running the engine or draining the start up battery.

    Though this design was elegant and different, we did not end up winning.I realized at this challenge that it takes more than just an out-of-the-box idea to win. Another key component to pain-storming solutions is applicability and feasibility of the design. The first place team focused on a main group of travelers - people flying by plane. They came up with an app for smart phones that could help flyers prepare for and recover from jet lag in a manner customizable to their flights. This idea is applicable to a variety of traveler’s and it uses technology that already exists. These two important characteristics ultimately out won the unique factor when it came to judging.

    This challenge was an interesting concept that really helped me learn to think about the end-user and the potential customers for the designs I create. I look forward to not only continuing using creativity to think of solutions, but also incorporating the characteristics of reliability and feasibility into my future pain-storming solutions.

    Winning Reflection - Emily Hart

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  • Future of Education Challenge

    November 14, 2013
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    Student Reflection - November 13, 2013

    Usually, the Weekly Innovation Challenge provides an interesting chance to meet new people while trying to overcome some sort of presentation or building obstacle. Though I expected to construct a wagon out of pasta noodles or pitch a new technology, today’s event was a much more impactful experience. This time, the challenge was to create a 90 second pitch for a vision of education in the future. While I had my own preconceived notions toward an idea of educational priorities, the diverse perspectives of my team challenged my initial concepts and helped to show more serious priorities.

    At first, I saw this challenge as a way to apply future technology to a classroom setting. For a futuristic American school, it seemed feasible to me to introduce a more hands-on system of learning, perhaps using motion capture and holograms, while making heavy textbooks obsolete. Likewise, I also had the idea to start career-focused education sooner in order to better prepare people for their actual jobs. Effectively, I think it might be beneficial to focus medically minded people toward the sciences earlier or give more specialized opportunities for those interested in technical vocations.

    While these ideas might be useful for those of my background, another one of my team members saw the biggest object of reform as admissions. While tests like the ACT and SAT often give useful information to universities, they can discriminate against poor test takers or students who might not have English as their first language. Instead, she proposed a system of more comprehensive interviews in order to get a better understanding of college applicants. Likewise, the application process could be tailored to specific fields, such as requiring the submission of a piece for an art student.Even though the two of us focused on reforming domestic education, it was ultimately our third teammate who provided the most valuable perspective. I might have looked toward future technology, but she brought up the economic disparities around the world that might prevent other areas from utilizing these education methods; a new internet-based teaching method is useless to students that might lack access to computers. As an international student, she was able to give us more insight into ways to improve education on a global scale and point out problems that my less experienced perspective could not immediately see. As a result, we also set global education as a key priority and wanted to advocate more exchange of both people and educational opportunities among countries.

    While our presentation might not have gone as planned due to time management, my group’s discussion of educational priorities, both here and abroad, gave me more insight about the status of education on a global scale. Ultimately, this week’s WIC challenged me to expand my views on education to better suit the needs of an increasingly connected world.

    Winning Reflection - Steve Doonan

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  • Marshmallow Launcher Challenge

    November 7, 2013
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    Student Reflection - November 6, 2013

    The Weekly Innovation Challenge brings students together from all majors and backgrounds to compete. The competitions themselves are similarly diverse, ranging from business and presentation challenges to more hands-on activities. This week’s “Marshmallow Launcher Challenge” was one of the latter, relying more on engineering and design abilities than luck or business acumen. The objective of the competition was to build an accurate tool to fling the marshmallows from a starting position into a marked scoring zone about ten feet away.

    My team this week was a mix of old and new faces. First, I was able to work with my old roommate, a senior neuroscience major. Then, we met a graduate student in electrical engineering. Including my status as a biochemistry senior, my team was a mix of science and engineering. While it might have been an effective combination for this building and design challenge, we were certainly lucky that the contest did not go outside of our narrow range of specialties. On another day, a business themed challenged might have been beyond our skill sets.

    Initially, my teammates and I focused on finding a good design for our launcher. Officially, the device needed to accurately lob the marshmallow a good ten feet while resting on a table and being operated by only one hand. Furthermore, our supplies included two different types of popsicle sticks, straws, rubber bands, hot glue, and a full plastic water bottle. My initial vision for the launcher was a medieval trebuchet that used the water bottle as a counterweight, but we quickly saw the infeasibility building one with our simple materials.

    As the time for the challenge ran down, we decided on a slingshot design (A). The water bottle would stabilize a set of popsicle sticks with rubber bands stretched between them. We began building this device, but encountered numerous setbacks. Besides some of the mockups failing catastrophically in a shower of wooden sticks, we realized the difficulty in operating a slingshot with one hand. As a result, we added additional sticks to form a catapult (B). This made handling the marshmallow easier due to my teammate’s addition of a bendy-straw basket for the projectile, but it was still too unwieldy for the rules of the challenge.

    With only five minutes to spare, the launcher was a failure. We could not hurl the marshmallow off the tabletop, let alone across a room. As the first teams began their official launches, my teammates and I held a hasty redesign conference. Quickly, I tore the terminal set of popsicle sticks off the arm of the launcher and reattached them to the side of the water bottle. This formed a new catapult arm, and the old one was a stabilizing base (C). After fortifying the new arm with rubber bands, we were ready to go.

    As we set up the catapult, the crowd seemed disinterested in our hastily redesigned launcher. I loaded the first marshmallow and let it fly. The crowd gasped audibly as the candy lobbed in a perfect arc to the target, nearly hitting the bonus section. My teammates were equally surprised. That spectacular launch was the first ever shot for our completely untested design.

    My team may not have won the challenge, but it was our fast adaptation and innovation which saved the project from failure. Ultimately, the challenge showed the importance of making the best of adverse circumstance and not giving up on even a seeming defeat.

    marshmellow-launcher-challenge

    Winning Reflection - Steve Doonan

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