September 2015

  • Pure Idea Challenge

    September 24, 2015
    Posted by Mike
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    Today we were given a challenge that hit home…literally. The challenge was to come up with an idea to design, build, or create that would make St. Louis the “Gateway to Innovation”. Being born and raised in St. Louis, I felt as though I had an advantage going in to the challenge. I know a lot of the pros and cons to St. Louis so it would be easy to target certain issues I believe are holding us back. The main issue I believe is that no one wants to come here.  I brought the idea to my group and they agreed with me. The best way to make St. Louis more innovative is to bring more people/organizations in to the area. In the early 1900’s when St. Louis was the “Gateway to the West”, there were two main reasons why the city was so successful. Those reasons are the location (near the Mississippi River and center of the U.S.) and the events which brought people into the city (Olympics, World’s Fair, etc.). Even with the advancements in transportation, there is still an advantage to being centrally located. Our team felt as though we should aim to come up with an idea to attract more conferences, expos, etc. to make St. Louis a forerunner in innovative studies and ideas. 

    We decided to use the highly ranked hospitals and universities as an attracting point for St. Louis as a conference location. One problem is that St. Louis does not have a large designated conference center. The America’s Center is the only one and it depends on use of the Edward Jones Dome for large events. We proposed using the Edward Jones Dome solely for conferences to attract bigger organizations. Plans are already in place to give the Rams football team a new home so it would be possible to make this happen. In addition, cost-saving incentives could be used to lure in more organizations.

    Our idea, however, was not the winning idea. The winning design proposed the use of turbines to make St. Louis more technologically advanced and look the part as well. Looking back, I wish we had added some element to our proposal that made St. Louis more aesthetically pleasing. One of the key reasons why the city is so recognizable is because of the Arch. I believe the turbine idea won because they incorporated functionality into something that could be used as a cornerstone landmark for the city as well.

    Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins

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  • Tesla Challenge

    September 17, 2015
    Posted by Mike
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    This challenged proved to be pretty tough. A representative from Tesla came and brought one of the cars with him!  He explained how small innovations can make a difference, such as the retractable door handle on the Tesla vehicles which improves the aerodynamics of the car. We were instructed to do something similar and make a pitch for an improvement on an everyday item. We have done pitches in the past, but this one was a little different. Usually we are given specific details (items, situations, etc.) to incorporate into our ideas. This time, however, we were given freedom to do… just about anything! Another stipulation in the challenge is that we had to have realistic goals for our idea that could also be easily implemented. For example, we couldn’t make a flying car to avoid traffic. It would require too much money, time, and resources to create and wouldn’t be simple to use. The new or improved product was judged based on its efficiency, cost, feasibility, and impact on sustainability.

    Our group decided to try and brainstorm ideas of everyday items we use first. Then, out of that list of items, we tried to think of possible improvements. Unfortunately a lot of the ideas we had were already in existence. We eventually decided to look for problems to everyday items, rather than improvements. Using this method, we were actually able to come up with idea…with only 5-10 minutes to finish our pitch! Our idea was a method to reduce the saline content in recycled water.

    In the end I believe we lost because of two main reasons. The first reason is that our product is used often, but not necessarily every day. We proposed using the recycled water for outdoor uses such as watering the lawn and washing the house or car. Not everyone waters their lawn daily, and if so, it’s only during the warmer seasons. Also, people generally wash their car no more than once a week. If we had more time, we would focus on improving a product that is used more frequently. The second reason I believe we lost is because our product focused on a luxury item rather than a necessary item. The winning product was an improved refrigeration unit that limited the amount of cold air released when retrieving an item. This is an item that is used several times a day by most people so the innovation is more impactful.

    Winning Reflection - Michael Hankins

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  • Step Stool Challenge

    September 10, 2015
    Posted by Mike
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    When under the constraints of time, sometimes you reason with yourself that you just need to start building and hope that it works out. For some reason there’s this “just do something” motive in our head, that tells us to just get going already! Well fortunately there is also reason, and if there is anything I learned during this lesson it’s that reason should always trump instincts.

    After about 10 or so minutes trying to plan a strategy for how to build the step stool my team and I basically just threw our hands up in the hair and went with the “just do something” method. It was, needless to say, a failure. Innovation challenges are always about how you manage your time and a lot of the time if you’re not physically doing something you feel like you’re wasting that precious time and, as is most appropriately true in this case, time is money. And so we just went with it – no real full proof plan, just started cutting 6x8 squares hoping that it would all work out.

    What we should’ve done is spent the majority of our time strategizing rather than building. For as long as a time that it takes building a bridge, it takes just as long of time coming up with appropriate architecture  to make sure that it will hold cars, finding the right materials to construct the bridge, making sure it’s a reasonable cost, getting the city or state governments on deal with the project, etc. There’s simply a lot of planning involved in any infrastructure project and ours should have been handled the same way. Even though our brainstorming had left us fruitless after 10 minutes we should have devoted more time – maybe another 10 minutes in fact – to more brainstorming. It’s obvious that the team that won, had done the most planning and the least constructing. I was keeping an eye on the other tables and they didn’t end up building until the last 10 minutes and that’s because they had a full-proof plan that they knew through and through and so it would be easy to implement. Ours was exactly the other way around and we lost because of it.

    So in life we should plan before we just start doing something. For class scheduling you need to sit down and plan out years in advance instead of just winging it and picking some random classes that might fill a need or interests you – every credit hour counts towards something and you want to make sure you’re maximizing the ones given to you. And in work when I’m given a task by my boss I can’t just hammer it out on a whim. No I need to formulate a strategy for how I am going to tackle that task, just like my abysmal failure at the innovation challenge taught me.

    Winning Reflection - Dan Baran

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  • The Greatest Hits Challenge

    September 3, 2015
    Posted by Mike
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    Winning Reflection - Daniel Baran

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