Innovation Week: Inspiring Students to Work With Their Hands

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Mines Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week kicked-off with the grand opening of the Blaster Design Factory.

The week showcased the recent efforts in driving Mines students toward being more entrepreneurial and innovative in thinking.

This is the first year Mines has hosted Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week. Kevin Moore, the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences and one of the main faculty members driving this initiative, described how the motivation for this week.

“We decided we ought to find a way to show the campus the maker spaces which are for the whole campus,” Moore said. “[And] to promote the entrepreneurship club, to tell people about the Grand Challenges Scholars program, and to have our Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition.”

The events focused largely on showcasing the different resources available to students.

This week really symbolizes the change that is coming to Mines in terms of an entrepreneurial and innovative culture,” Daniel Dickason, a student leader for the initiative, said. “There are now places that are freely available and open for students to use at their discretion where ideating and prototyping resources and help are plentiful.”

Spaces recognized during the week included the Blaster Design Factory in Brown building, the Digger Design Lab in the Epics Annex, and many other areas filled with tools and resources available to all students.

“We’re really highlighting the spaces and equipment available,” Frank Musick, a large contributor to the creation of the Blaster Design Factory, explained. “Students don’t know this stuff is here, so the first step is making them aware of what is available to them and then educating them on how to utilize it.”

The week included a day where workshops were offered in the different shops and spaces to educate and excite students on the possibilities with the recent changes made on campus.

Dickason attended various workshops on Wednesday, including a demonstration by a student using a laser cutter in the Garage to create a icosahedron (20-sided) lamp-shade for his house. Other students could be found using the vinyl cutter in the Blaster Design Factory to create stickers for their cars, water bottles, and laptops.

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week ended on Jan. 21 with the second annual Mines Entrepreneurship and Innovation Challenge.

“People from an oil company and mining company talk about the sustainability problem found in those industries,” explained Moore. “Then students have the chance to get together around problems that are interesting to them, form teams, and do a Shark-Tank-like pitch.”

Six teams were chosen to continue developing their ideas with a total of $36,000 distributed to fund their efforts.

“There is a lot of significance behind this week as it shows that students want more than just the cut and dried facts of engineering,” Dickason said. “They want their education to include hands on design and building work as well in order to exercise the problem solving skills taught in the classroom.”

He hopes to see a cultural shift on campus away from one focused on only school all the time, to a place where hobbies and passions are encouraged.

Although the week ended, the efforts to bring entrepreneurial and innovative thinking and resources to the campus will not.

“Stay tuned. This whole push for entrepreneurship and innovation is a big thing right now,” Musick said. “It’s a big topic in the corporate world. Mines is starting the journey on how to teach entrepreneurship and innovation.”

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