Rebus Puzzle Challenge

November 5, 2015
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This afternoon, I felt very nostalgic as Rebus puzzles were the subject of this week’s Weekly Innovation Challenge hosted by Saint Louis University’s Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology. Rebus puzzles use words, shapes, numbers and symbols to form a pictograph, which reveals a word or phrase when solved. When I was younger, Rebus puzzles would even compete with the comics section of newspapers for my attention. However, it was a love-hate relationship, as feeling of frustration would rival feelings of satisfaction when trying to solve the clever, often difficult puzzles. This week, our challenge was to solve the most puzzles. The challenge was broken into six regular rounds, with two bonus rounds for extra points. For each regular round, teams had 3 minutes to solve a series of six Rebus puzzles, for one point each. This week, there were half a dozen teams with about three members each; which meant plenty of competition.

In usual fashion, each of our team members had to be pursuing a degree in different major topics. This week I teamed up with students majoring in biology and biochemistry. Having taken many science courses myself as a public health major, our team would have benefitted had the challenge been related to the physical sciences. However, this challenge required us to utilize a more abstract and spatial understanding. We originally thought to split up the six puzzles between the three of us. After the first round, we realized that we had plenty of time to work through them all. So, first, we each looked for ones we knew right off the bat. After consulting each other, we then moved on to ones that we had trouble with. Often, just the act of vocalizing our different thoughts led us to the answer.

On a surface level, this challenge was enjoyable and reminded me of my childhood, but upon reflection, it revealed itself to hold lessons about innovation. During the challenge, our team commented to each other that we thought this challenge would be significantly harder if we were not so familiar with the English language and its phrases. Our knowledge provided a baseline context for us to then think spatially and creatively while solving the puzzles. However, language has such a structured form in our everyday life that it can be difficult to think and interpret creative forms of language. This experience is not limited to puzzles, however. Within each person’s profession, there is also a unique language and jargon. There are terms, abbreviations, frameworks and methods that are unique to the field and become structured into our everyday lives through repetition and familiarity.  They provide us a way to easily communicate about challenges with our colleagues based on a common knowledge; just like how our team’s knowledge of English helped us solve the puzzle. While this is positive, we also need to be aware of the limitations of this shared language. Sometimes this language can work to funnel our thoughts into structured concepts, instead of looking at them in new and abstract ways. One way to counter this problem is to include members of other disciplines in problem solving teams. This principle, which is supported by the Weekly Innovation Challenge, allows for ideas to be examined in new ways, in conjunction with members of those fields. When we talk and think exclusively in the ways that we were trained by our field, we can also end up isolating people from other professions when they feel left out or feel too uninformed to participate. So, this challenge taught me the importance of balancing problem solving processes we have already formed with problem solving with incorporating new modes of thought to truly innovate. Being half-way through my fourth year at SLU, the Weekly Innovation Challenge provides an unrivaled out of the classroom learning experience that serves to both motivate and enhance my educational experience. I will certainly be back for the next Weekly Innovation Challenge.

Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

  • Nov 18th, 8:17am

    useful and applicable!
  • Nov 28th, 5:21am

    سیماتاب جنوب تولید کننده انواع سطل زباله های بزرگ شهری
  • Dec 26th, 3:38pm

    interesting article. good luck!
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