December 2015

  • Gift Box Design Challenge

    December 3, 2015
    Posted by
    Share This

    Coming off Thanksgiving break and heading into finals week, this week’s holiday themed innovation challenge was a welcome reminder of what lies ahead in the coming months. Today, we were greeted by sounds of holiday music and the sight of many boxes of present-like items. The assortment of boxes varied in size from a box to hold a watch, to a larger one for headphones. In total, there were about 10 different items. The challenge of the day was to create a box that could hold all of the items. The first tie breaker was determined by whichever team used the least amount of materials, which was determined by weight. The second tie breaker was the aesthetic look of the box. Teams were given a large foam poster board, rulers, tape, glue and a hacksaw blade to craft their box. An additional challenging component to this week’s challenge was that no one could touch the items we were to put in the box, so no one could test their concepts. Teams were given the dimensions of a Rubik’s cube, which was one of the included items, so that size estimations could be made.  Teams were given about 45 minutes to design and build their boxes before the judging period.

    I started participating in this year’s weekly innovation challenges midway through the semester. My first time there, I joined up with a student who I had not met before. We ended up working well together, and have continued to be teammates since then. Throughout the challenges, we have had many good ideas and have come close to winning the challenge. However, we had yet to win this semester. So, we were very determined to win this week’s challenge, the last one of the semester. Pursuant to that goal, we began brainstorming possible ideas about the challenge right when we arrived, even though we had no idea what the challenge was. We thought the challenge may be related to music delivery systems because we saw CD cases, headphones, and a speaker playing Christmas music. Yet, this was not to be the challenge. However, keeping in mind our desire to win, we eagerly took on the box making challenge. First, we estimated the size of the box we would need to create based on the Rubik’s cube as a reference. We knew anyone could make a box that could hold all the items, so we would have to focus on how to do it in a way that minimized the foam board we used. Our initial thoughts, like everyone else’s, centered on making precise estimations of how much space was needed, so that there would be no excess space in the box. Estimating was not too difficult, so this challenge called for something more. That was when I had the idea to separate the foam boards in two. Meaning, we would use the hacksaw blade to cut through the foam that holds the two faces of the board together, resulting in two, almost paper thin, sections. This way, we could still use the same surface area of material, while only measuring in at using half the material on the scale. Often, we think of innovation as a way to build or create. This challenge brought to mind that it is important to acknowledge the assumptions we make when trying to create something new. All of the other teams, and our team at first, made the assumption that the material we were given fit the purposes of the task in its given state. When we think critically about all steps in the innovation process, we can more easily identify assumptions and work to avoid taking building blocks as norms that should be maintained.

    We took the estimates we made and started cutting the foam board. We soon discovered that separating a foam board is a difficult task, especially with a hacksaw blade. Before we knew it, time was running out. While my teammate continued to work on separating the boards, I cut out un-separated boards in the event that we would not be able to finish separating all the sections. As part of our strategy, we chose not to spend time on decorations because the scale used to weigh the boxes was sensitive to a tenth of a gram and the odds that our box would be equal to another team’s box would be relatively low. As time continued to wind down, we were only able to fashion the top and bottom of our box out of separated foam board. The rest of the sides were created from intact boards. We used tape, sparingly, to connect all the boards together. With no time to spare, our box was ready. The first team up failed to fit all the items in the box. The second team was able to fit everything in the box and have a lower weight than the first team. At that point, the judges weighed the boxes first since if they were over the weight of the team that was successful, then they could not win. No other teams weighed in under the first successful team. Despite our box being significantly larger than the successful team’s box, when we weighed in it was only six-tenths of a gram heavier. If we had been able to carry out our plan of separating all of the boards for the box, we almost certainly would have been successful. Yet our efforts went unrewarded, and a competition win eluded my teammate and I yet again.

    I am certain both my teammate and I will return in the spring semester to enjoy the competition of more weekly innovation challenges. Today, I have been thinking about why I enjoy participating in these weekly challenges. I think there are several reasons. The competition is great fun, the ideas I see and hear can be inspiring and the hands on creating process facilitated by these challenges are hard to come by anywhere else. However, I think one of the most important reasons I enjoy these challenges is because I think they align with the Jesuit inspired principle of being a contemplative in action. Each week, we are invited to think critically about an idea, bring our own experiences to the table, work with another teammate from a different field of study, and actively create something new and exciting. Given my reflection on Jesuit principles, the holiday themes, and the many great ideas I have seen produced by the many teams who participate, I think these challenges could be further developed aligned with the Jesuit mission of the University by asking local nonprofits, charitable organizations, schools and/or other community members to propose their own challenges to the teams who participate. This could build community partnerships through applying the challenges and their proposed innovative solutions to the community problems. I look forward to see what is in store next semester!

    Winning Reflection - Ted Stewart-Hester

    Leave a Comment

Subscribe to the RSS Feed

Archive by Date