September 2014

  • TSA Streamlining Challenge

    September 25, 2014
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    Today’s challenge was a perfect example of the importance of innovation. We were tasked with finding a solution to a real-world problem. The TSA Streamlining Challenge required us to invent a method that would reduce the screening lines at airports.  We were allowed to use the internet as a major resource, but the main resource we needed was time. With only 90 seconds for the pitch and less than an hour to develop the idea, this proved to be a difficult challenge. One obstacle is that we find something new to the field that has not already been implemented. Hard to believe some great ideas exist that the airline industry has not already used. Our best bet was to expand on an idea that is utilized currently. This leads to the second problem, which is what area of the TSA Security checkpoint should we expand on? 

    The initial way to solve these two obstacles was through communication, not only amongst ourselves, but also using the internet as a source to get extra feedback. The internet provided us with pieces of information and we had to collectively put them together in a sensible manner. The teamwork aspect was pretty tough as well because our ideas didn’t match up completely. We were left with the possibility of combining all of our thoughts into one main idea or going with the best option. We chose to go with the best idea because we only had a 90 second pitch and it would be hard to convey a broad idea in that time frame. In addition, it was easier to address a single issue. We chose to try and make the body and bag scan process more efficient. Our idea was to have three conveyor belts: one for people and one for each carry-on luggage bag. The people carrier would have a metal detector scanner and a chemical scanner while the two baggage lines would have x-ray detectors. For the sake of our business plan, we decided to give our idea a fancy name. It was called the “Transportation Safety Accelerator” or TSA for short. We definitely intended to have those initials!  Also we wanted to emphasize that TSA agents would use the training they already have working with the current system to check bags and people for anything suspicious. This allowed money and time to be saved because there was no need to re-train the workers. Any flagged item or person would be removed for more extensive searches to avoid hold ups in the line.

    In the end our group did not end up winning. The other team had a better business idea. Instead of trying to think of the latest and greatest machine to save time, they decided to take a more practical approach. I can’t remember all of the points to their idea, but I remember one of the points was using compartmentalized trays in order to separate the different items that had to be scanned. One important lesson I learned is that the technology is only as good as its implementation. It is better to be more practical. We didn’t even think as far as problem solving for any malfunctions with our inventions. If our machine jammed, it would create more problems than its worth. Sometimes the best answer to a problem is the simplest one, because it avoids adding additional problems.  

    Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins

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  • Quotes and Famous Faces

    September 18, 2014
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    The challenge for today was very surprising.  I happened to run into two former teammates from a previous challenge on the way into MDH so my team was formed before I walked through the door.  Great start!  We walked into the rotunda, looked around at the tables and something seemed strange.  As we wrote all our names on the sign-up sheet, that’s when it hit me!  There were no supplies on any of the tables!  I was accustomed to the challenges in which we had to build something, but this one was different.   

     

    The Quotes and Famous Faces challenge required us to either 1) identify the person pictured on the screen or 2) identify the person who is famous for the quote shown on the screen.  The use of cell phones and other technology to search the answer was prohibited and only one minute was allowed to submit an answer.  This was done by writing the name on a piece of construction paper and handing it to the judge.  Each answer was worth two points if both the first and last name was given or 1 point if just one name was submitted.  Here’s the catch: only the first team who submits the correct answer is awarded the points!  This stipulation created several obstacles.  The first one is that your actual time to submit an answer now became less than a minute.  Chances are some other group knows the answer as well so that limits, and in some cases eliminates discussion time.  Now we were forced to agree as a group to trust each other’s answers to speed up the process of submitting an answer.   Another obstacle is that you have to think, “Should I just write this person’s last name and get one point or risk another team delivering an answer faster and not getting any points?”  So many split second decisions!    The third obstacle is the physical delivery of the answer.  Most groups decided to run to increase chances of a faster delivery.

    The challenge was very frustrating to me.  All the quotes looked familiar as if I’ve seen them before, but I just couldn’t think of who said half of them.  And most of the pictures looked familiar, but I just couldn’t think of the person’s name fast enough.  After the first few rounds I starting wondering, “What does this challenge have to do with innovation?”  Maybe it was because the competitive spirit in me didn’t like the fact that I was losing.  I mean, who cares who these people are and what they said…right?  And how did some groups run up and deliver answers before we even started writing!?  We began to use the time in between rounds as discussion time and deciphered two really important secrets to this challenge!  The first was early in the challenge after the first few rounds.  We realized that all the people who were quoted or pictured were innovative in some way.  This drastically reduced the possible logical answers.  However, the answers were still surprisingly broad, ranging from Mark Zuckerberg, one of the co-founders of Facebook to Michael Jordan, the inventor of the dunking from behind the free throw line.  The second secret we didn’t think of until it was too late.  We figured out teams were able to deliver answers immediately because they had already wrote down the name of multiple innovators.  That way if the name came up they just grabbed the paper and ran to the front.

    Overall this challenge was full of innovation.  We realized that innovation comes in all forms and that successful innovation is driven by a mentality of perseverance.  Many of the quotes shown were in reference to not giving up such as Thomas Edison’s quote, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”  In addition, the teams who figured out how to deliver answers faster were the most successful.  Although our team didn’t win, I still enjoyed the challenge because it made me question my idea of what innovation actually entails.  It’s not just creating an object.  It involves generating ideas, expanding horizons, not taking “no” for an answer, and so much more!

    Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins

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  • Fishing Challenge

    September 11, 2014
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    Coming from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” fishing is part of my nature. However, this Weekly Innovation “Fishing” Challenge threw me off my game. This week’s task was to create a device to blindly “fish” out cups from behind a partition. The dozen or so plastic cups were filled with weights and provided a handle made out of construction paper and pencils stuck through the sides as points of attachment for our devices. The partition was about five feet tall and seven feet wide. In order for the “fish” to count, we had to place the cup directly into a cooler that was placed next to a chair that we had to remain seated in, which was several feet from the partition. We had 90 seconds to catch as many cups as possible and place them in the cooler.

    Teams were given supplies such as a cardboard box, tape, markers, pens, fishing line, twine and scissors to create their fishing device. Our team decided upon the traditional pole, string and hook model. One member worked on creating a hook that could support the weighted cups, while the other two worked on constructing the pole. We built a very large pole, close to 10 feet long, so that we could have plenty of clearance over the partition and a wide range of control with the hook. Once we completed the pole, with an attached line and hook, we conducted a test run. We quickly discovered that our singular hook model offered no control over trying to blindly hook the cups, and that catching a cup would only occur through pure chance. Since adding bait was unlikely to increase our odds with this group of “fish,” we opted to add three more prongs to our hook. This method proved to be much more effective.

    During the challenge, one member sat behind the partition with the pole while the other two were able to stand behind the partition in order to direct their fishing teammate. We were the third team to attempt the challenge, and while many teams unwittingly employed the catch and release rule, we were set on getting a trophy fish. Blindly hooking a cup was incredibly difficult. With both team members waving their hands, making wild gestures and shouting directions, it was near impossible to utilize the fishing pole we had made. With ten seconds of our time remaining, we managed catch and land a trophy fish. I swear it was at least a 6 foot and 50 pound fish! I suppose you will have to trust me on that, but our catch brought us to the final round with one other team. Unfortunately, communication continued to be a barrier to success and we took longer than the other team to catch another fish. While this challenge did not provide many lessons that I can take back with me to the many lakes of my home-state, I did learn the important lesson that despite effective design and technology, unless you can communicate and teach people how to use these devices in an equally effective manner, it is more than likely that you will render your advancements useless.

    Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

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  • Greatest Hits

    September 4, 2014
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    Student Reflection - September 3, 2014

    This week’s challenge was a combination of the greatest hits from last 
    academic school year. Though I had participated in all three challenges 
    before, I was placed on a team with two freshmen who were experiencing 
    this event for the first time. 

    As the first challenge of the year, I feel that one of the main challenges all 
    teams had to overcome was communication. For new teams like mine, 
    we had to quickly assess the skills we brought to our group in order to 
    effectively collaborate on the tasks. For seasoned teams, they had to alter 
    their past knowledge and agree on how they would manage their time in 
    order to complete the three familiar tasks in under one hour. 

    In the end, my team struggled with the word scramble puzzle, and we 
    were subsequently unable to try the cup-stacking portion of the challenge. 
    Though we did not win, I feel that my team learned excellent ways at 
    collaborating with strangers in a respectful manner while under a time 
    constraint.

    Winning Reflection - Emily Hart

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