Archive for May 14th, 2011

Exercise: Saving Household Running Water

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

One of the biggest resource wastes that we are often exposed to is running (and unused) water – straight from tap to drain. For example, we might be waiting for the shower water to flush the cold water that has been sitting in the pipes and the shower water to warm up. We might be brushing our teeth and not turning off the tap. What can you design to make use of this water? Yes, there are already recirculation systems that use the wasted heat (eg, radiant floor heating) or hot water recirculation systems that keep warm water near the point of use. Tankless water heater systems that are placed near the point of use can also address this issue.

But there is still an opportunity to collect the wasted water and use it efficiently by leveraging ease of use. For example, we could challenge ourselves to design a budget collection system that could be used to water the garden/house plants or wash the floor or rinse the shower door after use (control soap scum deposits).

Exercise: Ball Conduit

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Build a conduit out of some simple materials (eg, aluminum foil, straws and cellotape) and roll a ball (or egg) into different receptacles some distance away. The foil would mainly make up the conduit. The straws could act as support. We can make it more challenging by (a) having to go around corners, or (b) use a heavier object such as a golf ball, or (c) go over varying distances without allowing material modification of the conduit. We could make this competitive by making the object delivery a race. For example, we could have three or more buckets at the end (perhaps at different heights, and the conduit design that is the fastest to deliver an object into each receptacle wins.

I came up with this as a way/reason to give out an award for creativity, innovation and leadership. The competition could produce a clear victor based on the quickest time (or success if we use eggs and require that the eggs do not break).

Lesson Framework: Unfamiliar, Out of the Comfort Zone, Think Out of the Box

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Most of the workshop content should be aligned or sourced from familiar ground (eg, something you can do at your school) in order to fuel creativity and drive innovation, but there is also benefit to incorporating some thinking and experience from new and unfamiliar realms (but still from the appropriate age context). I was thinking about the Redesign Quick Challenge guideline I drafted around a beverage taste test concept. This comes from my exposure to flavor chemistry and the taste tests that are part of the research I observed at UC Davis. I also am incorporating the focus group method that I observed at Handspring. This demonstrates that incidental experiences can contribute to new ideas.

Two other well known phrases associated with working in unfamiliar settings are “Out of the Comfort Zone” and “Think Out of the Box.” These phrases can be described in more consequential terms: what is the point of being out of the comfort zone, or thinking out of the box?

Thoughts: What can I say about “Risk”?

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

In my course Environmental Toxicants, we discuss risk:

(1) Risk Compared to Uncertainty. There is high risk with high uncertainty. Therefore, to go towards less risk, we need to have less uncertainty (ie, more information). When we are being innovative, there will usually be some significant amount of risk because we cannot instantaneously gather all the information needed to make it work. We don’t know whether enough users will adopt it (as an example).

(2) Risk Compared to Failure. We sometimes worry about the risk of failure. This requires risk management to navigate out of the direction of failure. We can anticipate the riskiest factors and try to minimize their influence on failure.

(3) Perceived Risk. Different stakeholders might have different perceptions of risk. For example, different customers might perceive that adoption of a product of technology presents a risk to their business. They estimate the risk based on how they believe the change would affect their business. In the YCISL context, a school administrator might base his/her judgment of allowing the students’ product from being placed in school on perceived risk.

(4) Acceptable Risk. Almost all the time, change involves some level of risk but in search of a solution, some level of risk becomes deemed acceptable. When a company releases a new product, there is always a risk of a field failure or market rejection (for example). For the YCISL, we must show that leadership involves taking on risk (in a managed approach) and learning from failures as well as the successes.

Team Exercise: Newspaper/Newsletter Re-Design or Project Studio

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Here is a platform from which we could (a) do the Redesign Challenge (incorporate a new section or reformat an existing section to involve a sustainability theme) or (b) do the Project Studio – something that the students could go back to their home school/university and publish. Remember that we want to make this more than an exercise – we want to have feasibility, efficacy and a solid chance at survival (ie, sustainable).

For the Redesign Challenge, students could perhaps take apart a newspaper or newsletter and put it back together in
a format they think would work better. They would also be challenged to incorporate a section with a sustainability theme. For the Project Studio, a student team could assign roles of a typical newsletter/newspaper staff and put together or redesign or create a new section for a newsletter/newspaper.

Most students should be familiar with what roles are involved in a newsletter or newspaper team, but here are a few:

(1) Editors (Chief, Managing, Section, Copy, Creative)
(2) Writers/Reporters (content creators?)
(3) Graphic & Layout Designers
(4) Advertising Executive
(5) Budget/Finance Executive
(6) Printing/Publishing Executive
(7) Distribution
(8) Technology Lead

Ideas: Brainstorming in the Other Person’s Shoes

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Could you get useful results from brainstorming from the perspective of a person who you have little knowledge about how he or she operates/functions? Certainly, we could expect to get a lot of useless or unfeasible ideas (especially if empathy is not a strong point) but if we remember that we are searching for a needle (idea) in a haystack type of idea, and that the centered perspective may be clouded or limited, why not consider the outside resources (if it is available)?

For example, could a student (youth) put themselves in the mindset of a teacher or school administrator and come up with a program that would be feasible, efficacious and a good fit from the latter point of view? Would consideration of an idea from this alternate perspective limit the creativity? Or would it better the chances of an idea becoming approved?

In the real product world, a product is often developed and tested by very familiar minds who quickly cannot perceive the flaws. It might take someone completely unacquainted with a product to reveal the problems.