After thinking of a way to involve students in implementing problem solving and creative thinking skills, juniors Bryce Filho and Heather Finnell, with the support of Dr. Berry and Dr. Walter, decided to create SPARK, Student Projects Advocating Resourceful Knowledge. The SPARK event consisted of two competitions that put students to the challenge of working as a team to make the best on-the-spot designs. The winners of each competition won prizes at the event. Multiple speakers were introduced during different sessions.This event took place early Saturday mrning. Approximately 100 students, including local high schools students, participated in this event. The event started with an introduction by Dr. Bill Kline, Dean of Innovation and Engagement. Dr. Kline started the event by talking about the importance of teamworkwhich leads to great accomplishments. One of the examples he gave to illustrate this point was the construction of cathedrals. He said that a cathedral was built in stages because of its size; therefore, the architects must have had good communication skills to express the process of building a brick dome even larger than the Hulman Arena with their primitive tools. He also explained how the artists in the Renaissance were like engineers, since they dreamed big and built great things. To finish his speech, Dr. Kline mentioned the people that died in the Apollo II crash. He also showed the release of liability that NASA prepared for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, an agreement about the risk of not being able to return to Earth safely; this is to show how some people were willing to give their lives to further our understanding of the Universe. “Dr. Kline has always been somebody enthusiastic about what he does; his point is that design does not necessarily need to be done one certain way, but can be creative and can branch from different ways,” Filho said. The first competition consisted of building a tower and a hanging support with pasta noodles, macaroni noodles, tape, straws, and others materials in groups of two students. While students were building their tower, company representatives served as mentors by providing them feedback on their process. These mentors helped students realize that there are many ways to accomplish the given task. Right after scoring of the first competition, participants were treated to lunch, along with a speech on the acceptance of copying by E.J. Oruche, a 2011 Rose-Hulman graduate with a mechanical engineering degree who now works as a computer scientist.
He explained that it is fine to not have an “original idea” because new ideas are really the modification of old ones. He gave an example from companies like iPhone and Samsung, who have similar feature for their phones, but are still unique in their own way. He explained that borrowing from someone else’s idea is good, although our society pressures us to think of ideas as radically different. We should acknowledge that new ideas are influenced by old ones. This is the reason that people collaborate and learn from others. He said that if someone is doing something that works fine, then others should ask why it is working fine and how can it be adopted and modified in such a way that can better suit our needs.The second competition started right after lunch. The objective of that competition was for groups of four students with at least one or two high school students to build a catapult that could shoot an angry bird. Each group took turns showing how far their catapult was capable of launching. The scores were given based on the accuracy and distance where the angry bird landed.The event ended by awarding six winners for the first competition, three of them high school students and the other three college students. For the second competition, three groups won prizes, making a total of twelve winners for this competition. A raffle was held afterwards. Interim President Robert Coons gave the final speech about having a positive mind, problem solving, and great innovation, which marked the end of the SPARK event.The first year of SPARK resulted in a very successful event for students to learn about creative thinking. When asked about the future of SPARK, Filho said, “We plan to expand it for next year, involving more high school students and Rose students and may expand it to other universities and get more company representatives involved in mentoring students by giving them feedback about prototyping.”