January 2015

  • Disaster Relief Challenge

    January 29, 2015
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    To me, this challenge embodied the purpose of the Weekly Innovation Challenges.  I believe they encourage us to sharpen our critical thinking and problem-solving skills in order to benefit humanity.  The Disaster Relief Challenge is one that has a more direct influence on a real world problem.  We were instructed to design a tent or other kind of mobile housing unit that could be used for families displaced by natural disasters, war, and other types of widespread destruction.   This consisted of making a small model to display the design and a 90-second pitch to explain why your idea would work.

    Our design idea was similar to other tent ideas that exist now, but with added features that would accommodate for long term living possibly without resources.  We had a collapsible tent in which the “legs” could fold in for easier handling.  In addition, there was a small gutter with filters inside to collect potable rain water.  The poles would be made out of carbon fiber to make them strong, yet lightweight.  Also, the covering for the structure had zipper doors and windows, with one side fabricated from a highly reflective mirror material such as tin or aluminum to intensify the sun’s heat and use for cooking or heating. 

    One key point we figured out relatively early is that the pitch is more important than the model.  We didn’t want to invest too much time into the model because it wouldn’t fully convey our idea.  Only the pitch could do that.  So we decided to make a basic model and work on our pitch.  We made a poster to accompany our pitch and display ideas our model could not, such as the material specification. 

    Our downfall was that our idea was not simple enough.  The judges mentioned that one of the properties they liked about the winning design was the simplicity.  I feel as though if we decided earlier to spend more time on the pitch then the model, we could have had a better chance.  Overall, I learned from this challenge that it is important to prioritize which aspects of the challenge to focus on and that sometimes the simplest answer is the best.  

    Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins

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  • The Dome Challenge

    January 22, 2015
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    It became evident that the challenge this week would rely primarily on collaboration and teamwork. When the group leader slapped two boxes of straws on our table, we knew we would be in for quite the challenge. Therefore, a strong team was the key to success and little else would play as important a role. We were given the challenge of building a dome with the requirement of supporting a textbook but we had less than an hour to build it. I wanted to be the one to come up with the great ideas but quickly learned it was more than me working on this build. My teammates were actually the ones with the best ideas and it was my willingness to listen and allow them to take the reigns that led us to eventual success.

    We realized there were multiple strategies available to accomplish this goal but our main focus was to build a structure that was sure to perform. We effectively made changes on the fly as we ran into design challenges. This gave us the opportunity to rethink the alternative options and carry forward with the best one. For the purpose of this challenge, we successfully accomplished our goals based on the design specifications we chose 

    Our team was made up of students with a variety of skillsets. One member would focus on design while another would work on implementing that design. The third team member focused on organization so that we could stay on schedule. The best part of our group dynamics is that we were all familiar with working together so we knew how to communicate electively in order to complete the challenge.  

    Our final product met our initial expectations. When we started with our design, we had a vision for what we wanted it to look like. We successfully built a product we could all be proud of and we made comments on how our professors would be proud as well. This challenge was exceptionally fun because we were able to apply what we learned in the classroom. Whenever we get a chance to showcase our skills, we gain an opportunity to learn in ways we never could have imagined without this forum. 

    Winning Reflection - Paul Madsen

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