• Marshmallow Launcher Challenge

    November 7, 2013
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    Student Reflection - November 6, 2013

    The Weekly Innovation Challenge brings students together from all majors and backgrounds to compete. The competitions themselves are similarly diverse, ranging from business and presentation challenges to more hands-on activities. This week’s “Marshmallow Launcher Challenge” was one of the latter, relying more on engineering and design abilities than luck or business acumen. The objective of the competition was to build an accurate tool to fling the marshmallows from a starting position into a marked scoring zone about ten feet away.

    My team this week was a mix of old and new faces. First, I was able to work with my old roommate, a senior neuroscience major. Then, we met a graduate student in electrical engineering. Including my status as a biochemistry senior, my team was a mix of science and engineering. While it might have been an effective combination for this building and design challenge, we were certainly lucky that the contest did not go outside of our narrow range of specialties. On another day, a business themed challenged might have been beyond our skill sets.

    Initially, my teammates and I focused on finding a good design for our launcher. Officially, the device needed to accurately lob the marshmallow a good ten feet while resting on a table and being operated by only one hand. Furthermore, our supplies included two different types of popsicle sticks, straws, rubber bands, hot glue, and a full plastic water bottle. My initial vision for the launcher was a medieval trebuchet that used the water bottle as a counterweight, but we quickly saw the infeasibility building one with our simple materials.

    As the time for the challenge ran down, we decided on a slingshot design (A). The water bottle would stabilize a set of popsicle sticks with rubber bands stretched between them. We began building this device, but encountered numerous setbacks. Besides some of the mockups failing catastrophically in a shower of wooden sticks, we realized the difficulty in operating a slingshot with one hand. As a result, we added additional sticks to form a catapult (B). This made handling the marshmallow easier due to my teammate’s addition of a bendy-straw basket for the projectile, but it was still too unwieldy for the rules of the challenge.

    With only five minutes to spare, the launcher was a failure. We could not hurl the marshmallow off the tabletop, let alone across a room. As the first teams began their official launches, my teammates and I held a hasty redesign conference. Quickly, I tore the terminal set of popsicle sticks off the arm of the launcher and reattached them to the side of the water bottle. This formed a new catapult arm, and the old one was a stabilizing base (C). After fortifying the new arm with rubber bands, we were ready to go.

    As we set up the catapult, the crowd seemed disinterested in our hastily redesigned launcher. I loaded the first marshmallow and let it fly. The crowd gasped audibly as the candy lobbed in a perfect arc to the target, nearly hitting the bonus section. My teammates were equally surprised. That spectacular launch was the first ever shot for our completely untested design.

    My team may not have won the challenge, but it was our fast adaptation and innovation which saved the project from failure. Ultimately, the challenge showed the importance of making the best of adverse circumstance and not giving up on even a seeming defeat.

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    Winning Reflection - Steve Doonan

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  • Zip Line Challenge

    October 31, 2013
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    Student Reflection - October 30, 2013

    Today was the first time of the semester I participated in the Weekly Innovation Challenge, and I am very glad that I did. I had the privilege of working with and getting to know two awesome people from different areas of study at SLU, and it really brightened my day. There are few opportunities on campus to work in such a fun and excited environment in an effort to complete a given assignment with group members of different majors. The Weekly Innovation Challenge has provided me with that opportunity and for that I am very grateful. I am a neuroscience major, so if you are wondering how many times I get to work on group projects with a business major and an engineering major, you are right if you guessed none.

    The task was to build a ping pong ball carrier device that would slide down a zip-line at the fastest speed without displacing the ball from the carrier upon impact. I haven’t been presented with such a building challenge since high school, so I found this incredibly exciting. Not only did I get to work with other SLU students outside my major, as mentioned previously, but I also had the chance to apply concepts from my physics courses in a group effort to build the fastest zip-line carrier.

    Overall, I greatly enjoyed this experience because of the hands on building, application of knowledge from the classroom, and teamwork with fellow students from different areas of study. My group was very proud of our creation, and although we did not win, I will certainly return in the following weeks because of my incredible experience participating in the Weekly Innovation Challenge.

    Winning Reflection - Michael Toth

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  • Leap Into the Future Challenge

    October 24, 2013
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    Student Reflection - October 23, 2013

    Though my schedule this semester limits how often I can attend, I always look forward to the Weekly Innovation Challenge. This week, I was fortunate to work with a freshman engineering student whom I did the challenge with a few weeks ago. As a senior biochemistry major, I think the Weekly Innovation Challenge plays an important role on campus by bringing together students from all classes and majors. It certainly presents me with a level of student diversity not available in some of my major classes, which often include the same 20-30 people I have known for the past few years.

    Today’s event was the “Leap into the Future Challenge.” For this contest, we needed to devise a 90 second skit to showcase the Leap Motion Controller, a laptop compatible camera system that allows the user to manipulate on-screen objects using hand gestures. Our skits were to be judged based on their presentation of Leap Motion functionality and possible applications. In order to get the best scores, we needed to figure out innovative new uses for the technology and predict its future direction. To help us get started, the system was set up on a number of computers, which were available for us to try.

    While teams of three usually compete in these challenges, my team lacked a third member today. As a result, I realized that this presented some benefits as well as hindrances. Even though it might have been easier for us to come to an agreement about the direction for our skit with two team members rather than three, our perspective was limited compared to the potential addition of another teammate. Essentially, we had a less diverse background and a harder time coming up with novel ideas. Likewise, we initially struggled to begin designing our skit. My partner figured out an effective strategy faster than I could, but someone from a business or communications major might have made our presentation even more effective.

    Ultimately, we decided that the best route for our project would be to set it up as a dialogue. I played the role of someone very experienced with the technology, while my teammate was a friend with a wide range of interests who wanted to know how Leap Motion could help him. We began with the idea that it could be integrated with a microphone for his band to record his work and to be able to manipulate the notes in 3D in front of him. Next, we turned to more business-like applications. Based on a chemical demo we used on one of the example systems, we saw a future application in drug design and modeling. From there, it could probably also be used to scan real objects, edit them on the program, and reproduce physical versions of the altered objects using a 3D printer. Next, we saw a future for this system in the entertainment industry by using it as a way to put people in the middle of their favorite games. The judges seemed very pleased by this idea. Finally, we talked about making the system more independent in the future by using a hologram to remove the requirement of having a video screen.

    Even if my background in chemistry and biochemistry does not give me much experience with making skits, I was pleased to see how much of the challenge I could relate directly to my studies and research. The demo system we tested out included a chemical modeling system very similar to one I tried out at the recent American Chemical Society meeting in Indianapolis. At the conference, the system and its software were very bulky and expensive, but it seemed like this setup was much more portable and affordable. Likewise, my research lab recently obtained a 3D printer. Thus, any future application through which we could scan and reproduce objects would be very helpful for our fabrication processes. Even if the concept of performing a skit was foreign to my major, the concepts we used to create the skit were not.

    My team did not win this week, but we were able to use the challenge to imagine new and exciting innovations for an emerging technology. I also am glad that I was able to meet and to work with someone from outside my field. Finally, I am very interested in seeing how many of our predictions for this technology come true. Nonetheless, it seems like our imaginations limit innovation much more than any technical challenges can.

    Winning Reflection - Steve Doonan

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  • "DisAbility" Challenge

    October 10, 2013
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    Student Reflection - October 9, 2013

    It was another great day at the Weekly Innovation Challenge. As usual, I came excited to find out what today’s challenge was about. The challenge organizers have never failed me with surprises of the impromptu. Yet I was anxious and prepared at the same time. Today I had the opportunity to work with two other bright team members; a junior from the business school and a fellow graduate student of mine in the engineering school. They were both amazing as far as coming up with ideas; in fact, it was hard for us to choose from the number of ideas we had come up with.

    Today’s challenge, titled “DisAbility”, was to conceptualize a device or equipment to help people who only have one hand to assist them at their workplace. I thought this was a very meaningful challenge since the end design could directly benefit people with a disability. I really liked the idea of this challenge. The concept could either be sketched, drawn, or even prototyped with the craft materials given. Teams were given 45 minutes to brainstorm, conceptualize, and create their design. Then each team performed a 90-second pitch to the judges at the end.

    When talking about people working with only one hand, there is only so much one could think about. We were allowed to do research in this challenge, including web searches. We had first thought of a “one-handed keyboard”, however, we soon realized that it was a popular choice among other teams as well as in our market research. We also found that most ideas surrounded only office-type workplaces. So we took a step back and asked ourselves, what about other types of work, other professions, or even personal accommodations?

    For example, drivers, construction workers, or how people wash their hands. So we researched further to find existing designs as well as the market size for different industries. We came across table-waiting jobs, which is a surprisingly large market in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. There were about 2.2 million waiter/waitress jobs in the U.S. alone in 2010. Then we looked at how the disability problem is almost untapped. We discussed how difficult it is for waiters/waitresses to deliver foods to their customers’ table with one hand being occupied with a tray. For those with only one hand, it is practically not doable. Some restaurants use portable stands that waiters can carry with them to the table, but it is still not a feasible option for people with one hand. So we came up with a design of a tray with built-in foldable stands. The tray offers a handle on top with a release button to deploy the folded stands when needed. Pressing the button and pushing down on the tray can fold the stand back up. We pitched our concept with a sketch and a roughly made prototype. During the presentation, we conveyed three key points of the design, which was uniqueness, uncharted market, and the usability that it offers. One may dispute the number of one-handed waiters currently in the market is small, hence, this will allow for more such workers, not to mention it could be helpful to all waiters.

    We ended up winning the challenge over some other great designs. We were very proud of our design and personally, I was very pleased even if our design wasn’t picked. With the meaningful challenge concept, the excitement to make something useful, and the great collaboration between the team members, it had come down to a great ending. This challenge not only instilled the experience of brainstorming and problem-solving, it also made me spur creative ideas, outside-the-box thinking, and applying our classroom knowledge to create something for the community. This was another truly innovation challenge! I would not think twice to compete again!

    Winning Reflection - Aaron Phu

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  • Angel Investment Challenge

    October 3, 2013
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    Student Reflection - October 2, 2013

    This week I had the chance to participate in the Weekly Innovation Challenge. It is always a great opportunity to meet and network with new people from outside my field. This time, I was working with a junior mechanical engineer and a freshman aerospace engineer. Today’s event, the “Angel Investment Challenge,” was the first one I have been able to attend this semester. Our objective seemed simple at first, but the Weekly Innovation Challenge can often be deceptive. We were to watch a series of Kickstarter videos for new companies, and then we had to allocate a theoretical two million dollar fund among the companies in order to maximize our return. The goal was to pick the best projects and beat out the other teams with our investments.

    Even if it was an investment competition, I found that his challenge required a wide range of skills. While some business training might have been helpful, my scientific background as a biochemistry major gave me a better perspective on some of the ideas. Likewise, my engineering teammates had little difficulty in seeing why one device or another might succeed or fail. Nonetheless, I realized that I was also biased by my background. The first project for a publicly operable space telescope seemed really cool to me, but my teammates were able to evaluate it more objectively. We ended up not investing in it, and we later found out the company collapsed with zero return.

    Overall, my team used a number of techniques to evaluate the projects. While specific chemical or engineering knowledge was useful for ideas like a desktop fabrication system, the whole range of projects exceeded our combined experience. Instead, we tried to expand our thinking to also include more business-oriented concepts like demand and production. For example, some ideas like a new lighting system for bikes on dark roadways seemed interesting but were not worth funding because they had no manufacturing centers. Even simple clues gave us more insight into the projects. A few of the videos showed large design teams to indicate high levels of training and organization, but others were only the inventor making the advertisement from inside a home workshop. It was quite a challenge to combine all of these factors into our decision.

    Ultimately, we needed to decide how to divide our money. It seemed fairly safe to spread out funding among several companies, but one of my teammates correctly reasoned that this low risk strategy would not set us above our competing teams. An average return could never make us the best. Instead, we settled on dividing our money among three projects: a pair of sports recording devices and a tabletop gardening system. This division ended up netting us more than four times our initial investment at the end of the challenge. Unfortunately, a pair of teams invested completely in a single project that we had rejected. They made a significantly higher return, winning the contest. Nonetheless, I was pleased with my team’s performance. Even if we did not win, we were still a group of scientists and engineers showing a good investment strategy. I also think our division of risk was an important and more realistic approach in which our entire investment could not fail with one company. In the end, my teammates and I showed that through collaboration, even people with little business experience can make new ideas work.

    Winning Reflection - Steve Doonan

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  • Post It Challenge

    September 26, 2013
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    Student Reflection - September 25, 2013

    Today’s challenge was about creating a 3D object made of Post-its that could be used as an advertisement for the product. It was certainly a creative-idea intense challenge. Each team was given two stacks of Post-its for a total of 200 pieces; coloring pencil and scissors were also available if necessary. The building time given was around 40 minutes and each team was given 1-2 minutes to pitch their design at the end. The judging criteria were based on creativity, innovation, and how it answers the goal of the challenge. My team consisted of three members, who I am acquainted and have worked with before, so we were able to collaborate very well.

    We started the challenge by understanding the spirit of Post-its. We brainstormed ideas of how and where the product is being used the most. We had come up with common uses of the product as well as identifying the user group of the product. Some of the common uses we identified were: notes, memos, reminders, signs, displays, and scratch papers. Some of the user groups we had identified were instructors for the low extreme, secretaries and administrative assistants for core users, and note takers and student workers on the high extreme side. We then listed all those ideas on paper and started to mediate about each one for about five minutes. Each one of us communicated our idea for an object to build for another five minutes.

    Then we narrowed down our ideas into a single one, which we all agreed that it was the best and easiest to make with the time and material given. Our chosen idea was to make a storyline out of Post-Its via a flip book method. Little to our knowledge, the judge did not consider a flip book a proper “3D object”; it was rather shocking when we were told about the decision more than half way into the building process. To us, an object with length, width, and height satisfies the 3D object specifications. However, the judge is the one who makes the call, so we had to change our project. However, at this time, we only had 15 minutes left to come up with a new object. We had decided to build a secretary office with a computer from Post-its since we had identified they are the core users.

    Even though we did not win the challenge, we were able to gain a different perspective from the winning design, which was essentially a box with notes around it. Hence, the idea is simplicity, however, still be able to show the core uses of the product. I was also able to gain the unique experience of studying the uses of Post-its and performed a quick ethnographic study of the product. Finally, I appreciated working with my teammates and our collaborations that sparked many creative ideas for such a simple product. To summarize it into one sentence, it was an interactive challenge that takes a simple product to allow the participants to come up with countless ideas, but more importantly, it was fun!

    Winning Reflection - Aaron Phu

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  • Brand Identity Challenge

    September 18, 2013
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    Student Reflection - September 18, 2013

    Today our challenge was to identify the main characteristics that make a brand what it is and to design a product that is unrelated to what the company usually produces. We were to use the main characteristics of the company’s other products to make a plausible design that the average consumer would be able to associate with that company. While we did not win the challenge, I did take away some important knowledge about what characteristics really describe a company.

    When we were brainstorming the fundamental design it was easy to look at all the company’s regular products and try to mimic our design in their image. We followed the idea that the new product should look like one of the company’s typical products even though the two products’ functions are completely unrelated. So, our BBQ grill was designed to look like a Nike shoe. While literally speaking we made the grill look like a Nike product, we did not actually take the characteristics of what make a Nike product a Nike product and apply it to the grill which was the goal of the challenge. We simply took the aesthetic appearance of a Nike shoe and changed its function but we did not look at any other Nike products.

    However, the winning group made me realize that the challenge was not about making a grill look like a Nike product but taking the values of typical Nike products and applying them to this grill. That is what the winning group did by designing a simple, sleek and out-of-this-world barbeque. It looked nothing like a shoe, another product nor a regular grill. They identified the characteristics that make up the Nike brand which include: simplicity and spacey, and they designed a grill that looked unique and simple. Through this challenge I have come to realize that all brands have one or two basic, fundamental characteristics; when identified, they can help create an entirely new line of products that a consumer can still associate with the company.

    Winning Reflection - Krzysztof Bzdyk

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  • GeoGuesser Challenge

    September 12, 2013
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    Student Reflection - September 11, 2013

    This week’s challenge was very engaging and fun. I have participated in many challenges but this one is quite unique. It required very strong analytical skill and attention to details and involved guessing a particular location using Google Maps Street View. The given location could be anywhere throughout the world. A point on the map was given and we could navigate the surroundings on the screen.The challenge consisted of three rounds each with five different locations. The first round permitted us to use the help of web searches and Google Maps Street View to identify the location. In the second round, we were able to use Google Maps but searching online was not allowed. In the final round, we couldn’t use either Google Maps or online searches. The time given was two, five and three minutes, respectively.

    Because we were under a time limit, this challenge was very engaging since we had to think very hard and quick. In order to come up with an educated guess for the location, we had to analyze what we saw on the screen and pay very close attention to every detail. My team worked very closely to identify every matter down to the minor details, from road signs to billboard advertisements to the way people dress. On each scene, we started out by quickly scanning through the surroundings to see if anything would catch our eyes. We then tried to look for clues such as road signs, companies’ business names and logos in the surroundings. I must admit some of the places were very challenging when given in countries that have overlapping cultures (for instance those in Europe such as Russia). My team worked together very closely and collaborated on every detail that we noticed. In the end, we placed among the top three teams with the highest scores. Throughout the challenge, I was able to experience the close collaboration of each team member and listen to everyone’s opinions. Overall, it was a great challenge as it had everyone actively engaged and utilized strong analytical skills.

    Winning Reflection - Aaron Phu

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  • Greatest Hits Challenge 2013

    September 4, 2013
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    Student Reflection - September 4, 2013

    This week’s Innovation Challenge provided hands on learning experience of how to manage multiple projects at one time. The culmination of the different challenges started to make people think back about how they failed to succeed in previous challenges, and what they were going to do this round to redeem themselves.The listening challenge is extremely fun and difficult because it limits everyone to use just one of their five senses. It’s a fairly easy task to tell a grizzly bear from an ape when you see them, but trying to identify the two in a recording is a different story. The next challenge from last semester was the pasta wagon challenge, which I competed in last year. The idea of creating a cart from noodles to carry different sized weights over a specific distance seemed fairly easy, and then you soon remember that your cart is made out of pasta once you hear the small cracks starting to propagate through the cart. The last challenge being the Helping Hands challenge again proved to be more challenging than initially anticipated because the objects that have to be picked up don’t act as you imagine in your idealized world.

    The listening challenge truly forces you to listen carefully and think about the context of each of the items on the list and see if you can identify just one correctly. When limited with just one of our senses we try to compare the recorded sounds that we hear to the sounds that we here in our daily lives. I think the most valuable lesson from this challenge is that it’s important to know the scenario before you proceed with a solution. Like we saw in the challenge unless you are look at a grizzly bear roar, you may think it’s a walrus or an ape over a recording.

    Having competed in this challenge last year, my immediate reaction was to build the winning design from last semester, and see how we fair in the points category for the challenge. We used the spaghetti as the axle, the lifesavers as the wheels, the lasagna noodle as the carrying device, and slowly dragged the weight along while the wheels slowly turned allowing the sled to be counted as a cart. I think the lesson to be learned from this challenge is that in the world of engineering, it’s thinking outside the box that allows you to create innovative solutions to perplexing problems. There is always going to be people saying that can’t be done, but the true innovators are the ones that push boundaries and take risks to try to better society.

    The main issue with the helping hands challenge was that the items didn’t stay still when we were trying to get our device to pick them up. With the same contraption we were trying to pick up golf balls, glue bottles, water bottles, and other objects, and building a design that works well for all the different shapes was hard for our team to wrap our heads around. We started by brainstorming a few ideas for several minutes, and then decided to go with a “cup shovel” that could pick up the round objects but could also pick up the items that were oblong. After doing a few trial runs with the cup, we decided it would be beneficial to design a contraption that would specifically pick up the bottles and other oblong items on the other end of our stick. This challenge highlights the importance of having a solid idea before pursuing the manufacturing part of the endeavor because the items cannot be reused after they have been cut and broken to a specific design. The challenge also highlights the importance of working as a team to create a unique and creative solution to a problem using materials that are readily available.

    Winning Reflection - Keegan Faudree

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  • Red Bull Flugtag Challenge

    May 2, 2013
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    Student Reflection - May 1, 2013

    When you ask a group of students to design a device to achieve maximum range, in a college that focuses on aerospace engineering and aviation, you are bound to get a fleet of fixed-wing gliders. So, naturally, we designed a zip-line.

    As my teammates and I waited for the competition guidelines to be unveiled, the anticipation for the event was high. This was to be the last innovation challenge of the semester, and the stakes had never been higher. Not only was the event highly-publicized, with sponsors from Red Bull present and free food and drinks, but the winner of the competition would also travel to Chicago to represent SLU and Parks College in the famous Red Bull Flugtag event. Needless to say, I wanted to win. I came into the event fully prepared to draw upon my aerospace engineering background to meet whatever challenge was thrown my way. However, little did I know that stretching beyond my conventional aerospace background would be key to placing third in the competition.

    When the hosts announced that our team was going to design a device to launch off the rotunda balcony for maximum distance, my thoughts immediately went to my introduction to aeronautics and astronautics course, where I had been required to design a glider that would maximize range. Then the grading criteria were announced: distance, creativity, and showmanship. Still stuck in my initial flashback to my introductory course in engineering, I brainstormed ways that I could make a “creative” glider and develop some sort of flashy skit to generate hype for the launch. After a few moments, I realized that I was thinking about it all wrong.

    While the obvious response to the challenge would be a fixed-wing glider, the problem with that design was that it was, simply, too obvious—the design would not stick out among the many other glider designs that were bound to emerge. This would be problematic in achieving the other equally- weighted aspects of our final score, creativity and showmanship. Realizing that the groups around me, consisting largely of engineering students, likely would elect to tailor a design toward the more performance-driven category of distance, I proposed the idea of focusing on the remaining two categories which were inherently more subjective. With a design that deviated from the norm, focused primarily on creativity and showmanship, our likelihood of winning the competition would become much greater.

    After a quick assessment of the building materials available to us, specifically wire, straws, bandanas, tape, and Red Bull, we came up with the idea of a creating a zip-line device. Acknowledging the fact that the zip-line concept would not be capable of the extended range achievable with a glider, our group determined that an acceptable distance would still be attainable with minimal effort spent, thereby allowing us to focus our time on tailoring the design to excel in the creativity and showmanship requirements. Gradually, the proposed zip-line concept adopted a Red Bull rodeo theme.

    Our design consisted of a straw cowboy that would ride a Red Bull “rocket” down a straw-and- wire zip-line. All of the members of our group constructed matching cardboard cowboy hats and bandanas, including miniature versions for our straw-made western rider. We secured a straw tube on top of a full Red Bull can with duct tape, so that there would be sufficient weight to encourage the rider down the zip-line, and then we wrapped the shell of an empty Red Bull can around the structure to preserve the original aesthetics. Next, a “brown leather” saddle was created using a paper bag, in an effort to prevent chaffing of the cowboy and provide for a more enjoyable riding experience. With putty, we gave the man a pair of boots, complete with spurs, and secured him to his aluminum bronco with masking tape. After bending our straw friend’s limbs into a more realistic rodeo pose, we hot-glued his miniature cardboard hat to his plastic arm, so that he would not lose it during the decent. As a final touch, a stretched wad of cotton was hot-glued to the rear of the Red Bull can to simulate exhaust gases.

    With the manufacturing process out of the way, we elected to test the design with a small section of wire to make sure that our rider actually would make it to the bottom of the balcony in one piece. However, we quickly discovered the wire would cut through exposed pieces of straw as gravity carried the weight to the ground. With this in mind, the exposed pieces of the straw attachment were removed so that only the section that was reinforced with duct tape would interact with the wire. After a few tests, this proved to be an effective fix, especially given the small amount of time left to build.

    As the teams were ushered up the steps, we had one of our teammates hide in the stairwell leading to the basement. The plan was to alert the teammate when it was our time to launch by shouting “Ca-caaw! Ca-caaw!” At that signal, he would emerge from hiding, catch the coil of wire that we would drop to him, unwind the coil to the length of the rotunda, and prepare to be reunited with our cowboy friend that would ride down the zip-line on his Red Bull bronco-rocket.

    Unfortunately, things did not go entirely as planned. First, the wire coil snagged while being dropped to our teammate, resulting in the entire coil falling down, including the lead that was supposed to fit through the straw. This interrupted the flow of our launch and really hurt the seamless show that we were hoping would “wow” our audience. Eventually, we managed to get the wire lead back up the stairs to our patient, but slightly-flustered, straw cowboy. We then proceeded to launch the cowboy down the zip-line, and, at first, it looked like it was going to be a success. However, half-way down the zip-line, the straw caught on the wire, cutting the line in two. To our dismay, the cowboy dropped at only half of the distance that we were hoping to cover.

    While the execution of our zip-line design did not go entirely to plan, we still managed to walk away with third place due to the unique design. Despite not winning, I left the competition feeling accomplished, as I learned quite a few lessons from my participation in my innovation team. First, I learned that the obvious design is not always the best design, and that a person’s background may influence a design but should not limit the design. By critically analyzing project requirements and brainstorming ideas with a team comprised of diverse backgrounds, a unique and innovative product can be developed. Next, I learned the value of considering competition when developing an innovative product. In order to develop a product that will stick out from that of your competitors, the molds that constrain standard designs should be challenged. We were able to demonstrate this by replacing a fixed- wing glider concept with that of a zip-line, which proved to be very successful choice, overall. I also learned the value of designing to meet all requirements and to not over-emphasize some requirements over others. For example, by not designing primarily for distance, my team was able to capitalize on the two, somewhat overlapping, design requirements of creativity and showmanship that were not overly emphasized in other designs.

    The disappointments in the execution of the design also led to learning experiences. While the device was successfully tested with a short wire, the system had never been proven on a larger scale. Therefore, a more extensive testing plan would have been beneficial, as the actual implementation of the design was relatively complex. Unlike the simplistic launch of throwing a glider from a balcony, the multi-step show involved with the zip-line included many untested “moving parts,” that ultimately led to the system’s failure. If a large-scale test had been conducted, these difficulties would likely have been overcome.

    Ultimately, the innovation challenge was a great opportunity to collaborate with a team of students across various disciplines to develop a unique design—all while having fun! Amidst triumphs and failures, the competition offered many lessons that translate beyond this week’s challenge. Although my team did not earn first place, as I had hoped going into the competition, I left with a great experience and look forward to competing again next semester!

    Winning Reflection - Parry Draper

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