April 2015

  • The Guess the Manufacturer Challenge

    April 30, 2015
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    This week’s Weekly Innovation Challenge was to describe the type of buyers of specific cars. We were given a list of about 30 cars; each car had different abilities and different target markets. 

    The hardest part about the challenge was coming up with clues to describe the specific buyer of the car. We were only allowed to give three clues. Many of our clues were very ambiguous. We were faced with the dilemma of either having clues that are too ambiguous or, on the complete opposite of the spectrum, having clues that are very specific and would give the car away immediately.  Another challenge was guessing other team’s clues. Often times, other teams were describing the car as opposed to “who would buy the car.” 

    A strategy we used, that we later found out did not work, was that we would put down what we thought was the car three times. This would have gotten us three points (the max amount of points available per question) however it was a risky guess. As a team we had to all be sure that we were in agreement in order with the car that was being described. What we should have done is gone with the more conservative route and put down three different eclectic guesses that still satisfied the given constraints. 

    From a business student perspective this challenge was good because we are always putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes. However because not all the contestants did the same it made it a bit more difficult as the car being described had more vague descriptions.

    Winning Reflection - Armando Gutierrez

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  • The Mobile Innovation Challenge

    April 23, 2015
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    This week’s challenge was a great challenge. All of the challenges make us students think critically and to quickly sift through ideas, but this challenge called upon our limited teaching experiences, classroom management skills, and other various teaching skills. On top of this, it was also an experiment in spacial 
    design: given a list of things, can they be arranged in such a way as to charge 30+ electronics and have room for 25 children to create and invent. This was, of course, a challenge. 

    It’s always a pleasure to work on a project that has some amount of relevancy in the real world, though. The opportunity to use these engineering skills that we study so hard to achieve for the betterment of our actual community is invaluable. 

    As always, teamwork, fast decision-making, and compromise are all important skills to bring to the table to share with team members. Listening can be the best thing that happens. In fact, it usually is anyway.

    Winning Reflection - Noah Tanko

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  • The Refugee Challenge

    April 17, 2015
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    This week’s challenge was in conjunction with Atlas Week’s keynote speaker, Derreck Kayongo. After listening to Derreck speak the evening before the challenge, I definitely wanted to participate. The challenge was to pitch and invent a useful item that refugees could use while they are traveling from destination to destination. We were given background information on some of the struggles found in the various refugee camps, but the guest judge Derreck had first hand experience. Since he had been a refugee in Kenya himself, he knew what would work and what wouldn’t. 

    Our teams struggled a lot to come up with something unique because we thought this was the best direction to go. We opted out of many directions where we knew inventions had already been made. Learning about all of the kids in the refugee camps we chose to invent a soccer ball that held essentials like a water bottle, blanket, and food. Children could carry the ball with them from destination to destination and then unload it and play soccer with it when they were at the camp. After hearing the feedback from Derreck, we realized we had missed out on some key points. Kids are not very good at keeping track of their own items, teenagers steal things, and sometimes the areas are very compact.

    The winner of the challenge used biomimicry to create a water filter that was attached to a backpack. This was an awesome solution to the clean water problem commonly faced in Africa. In general, it was great hearing from Derreck because he was so inspirational. He is an entrepreneur, who has helped start The Soap Project to help recycle soap from hotels in the US to be given to people who need it in Africa. 

    Derreck gave us a lot of good advice and emphasized how important it is to understand the people you are trying to help. Without knowing the lifestyle or need, your invention could really be unrealistic. I hope someday I can be as happy and have as much passion for helping others as Derreck.

    Winning Reflection - Kendra Patton

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  • Did You See That Challenge

    April 9, 2015
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    This week’s innovation challenge was centered around the topic of human perception. Teams of three students, of various academic backgrounds, were put to the task of identifying observable changes between before and after pictures, as well as the change through pictures in sequence. Imagine this task to be a mashup of “I Spy” and those “before and after” games in magazines. For the before and after portion of the challenge, teams were told that there were between 4 and 10 changes between the two images. Unfortunately, these changes were no where near as noticeable as the massive amounts of weight lost, or hair gained which we have grown accustomed to based on TV before and after advertisements. Instead, the pictures were primarily of office spaces. Objects in the rooms included chairs, desks, books, computers, office supplies, and sometimes people. The before and after images were shown several times to the teams, afterwards, teams had 30 seconds to turn in a piece of paper with the changes they noticed written down. For the rounds that showed the same scene, with slight alterations, over a 6-8 frame sequence, the images were shown twice, and then the teams had 30 seconds to turn in their descriptions of the changes. Finally, there was a bonus round which consisted of a video that instructed us viewers to pay close attention and count the number of footballs that crossed the screen in 10 seconds. The scores were then calculated based on the number of changes accurately observed and a winning team was announced. 

    This challenge put everyone on an equal playing field, since no one academic major could be advantageous to identifying the changes that occurred between the pictures. Without an academic foundation to approach this challenge, our team decided to talk strategy and split the picture into quadrants in order to make the challenging task more manageable. Right away, the task seemed quite formidable. There was a lot going on in the picture and it could be overwhelming to try and keep note of all the objects and their placement; not to mention that the short term memory skills were tested to the max by this challenge. After the first two before and after picture rounds, we realized that most of the changes were occurring in the middle of the picture. So, we decided to adapt our strategy. We agreed to each spend a little time at the beginning searching for changes in our respective quadrants, to then turn each of our attention to the middle of the picture so that we could observe the highest number of changes. This strategy worked well, as we began to catch a higher percentage of the changes. Our team communication skills were put to the test by the second component of this challenge, the pictures in sequence. The pictures cycled through rather quickly, which meant that people had to say what changes they had just observed, while still looking at the picture so that they may have a hope at recognizing what will change in the next pictures. Our team designated one person to write the observations down to assist with this task. We felt accomplished as a team because we began recognizing the themes of what would change, such as chair placement, which helped us focus our attention. Overall, we did very well, ending up in second place; we had noticed five less observations than the winning team. 

    Coming into this challenge, I had heard about and experienced how the brain is not able to accurately comprehend and remember everything about your individual surroundings. However, these experiences or learning exposures were not long in duration, meaning I experienced them, but thought little of it. After this challenge, it was all but impossible to not reflect about the implications about how we remember and focus on details, since this challenge reminded us repeatedly of what our minds had missed for almost an hour. After reflecting on the challenge, I think that there are several insights that I took away from participating. First, I felt mentally exhausted after intently focusing on several, very similar, images of office spaces in the hopes of finding small changes. After awhile, the images began to blur together, and I began to question whether or not a chair had moved, or if it was just something I had seen in another scenario. In many fields, the best way to move forward with a product or a system is to examine what you already have. I imagine that people face the same sort of mental fatigue and blurriness that we experienced when they continually analyze these products and systems as their job. As a team, we had to create a strategy to notice these changes; it took more than one individual. We also had to have clear communication for us to be successful at this task. Additionally, we had to adapt to the conditions we were facing in order to recognize the highest number of changes, even if that meant missing a few smaller changes on the side. For example, in the beginning, our team completely missed the fact that in-between two picture frames a large computer in the middle of the image totally disappeared. We were too focused on finding small changes along the outskirts to notice the major change right in front of us. We also learned that sometimes it is important to take a step back and look at the big picture. When we were all focused on individual quadrants of the picture, we were unaware as a team what trends were occurring. It was not until we looked at the picture as a whole that we realized that we needed to adapt our strategy.  So, it is important to keep in mind the lesson that it takes a strategy, communication and the time to look at trends to identify how to move forward with projects. These lessons are also pertinent to another realm of the professional world; communication. When talking with colleagues, it is important that you are on the same page about how the discussion is evolving and where the company/project is going from where it is at. If people are too focused on small segments of the larger discussion, they may feel like they are voicing opposing views since they are not both paying attention to the broader context of the bigger picture. No matter the application for the lessons that I learned today, I think that this challenge proved to be both engaging and educational. 

    Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

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  • Patent to Product Challenge

    April 2, 2015
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    The challenge this week involved using at least three patents from a list of 24 in a product design that was new and innovative.  This product was to solve an issue effecting a majority of society.  There were a lot of different patent topics on the list ranging from cars, 3D printing, water filtration straws, to smart watches.  As a chemistry student, I was particularly drawn to the “Method and means for the atomizing or distribution of liquid or semiliquid materials” patent.  In the end, my team zeroed in on three other patents that we could combine into an actual useful product.  

    My team consisted of people I had worked with before and this was helpful during the brainstorming process of the group.   We were able to collaborate well with each other and listen or pitch ideas without nervousness or embarrassment.  We spent a good amount of time coming up with fun and unique ways to combine the patents into our ultimate dream car that even James Bond would be proud of!  However, the group realized that the end goal was to solve a societal problem.  Once we refocused, we worked backwards.

    We started by deciding what problems society faces, then determining which one we wanted to solve.  After that it was simple to combine 3 patents into the design of a product to alleviate that problem.  The patents we used were the “voice command control and verification system”, the “automatic detection of infectious diseases”, and the “kitchen waste bin” that combined to give the V.A.T.S. product.   The Voice Activated Trash Sterilizer would be able to scan biohazardous waste/unsanitary waste for infectious disease and then sterilize them.   The device would be hands free so as to minimize the spread of the diseases that can be associated with unsterilized waste.  This could be useful for hospitals as well as under-developed countries.  

    Although in the end my team did not win, we were proud of our product.  This challenge also taught us a special lesson; even though something has been invented there may still be a new way to use it!

    Winning Reflection - LIz Jolley

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