The Mangonel Challenge
What’s a mangonel? And what can building one teach us about teamwork, prototyping, innovation and competition on the open market?
A mangonel was a type of catapult used to great effect by the Romans to throw projectiles at castle walls. For the Mangonel Challenge, students are divided into multi-disciplinary groups and given a mangonel kit and a set of instructions. Completely mechanical but complex in construction, just getting the mangonel to function takes the whole team working together on different elements. Communication, problem-solving and project management are key skills.
Prototype, prototype, prototype
Once constructed and working effectively, teams compete on the open market to win the contract of the local general (Dr. Gareth Bennett of the School of Engineering in TCD, who runs the challenge). Innovation is the key to competitive advantage – introducing a novel idea and testing it quickly. Prototyping with low-resolution objects like ping-pong balls, dog throwers, rubber bands and duct tape allows students to modify, test, adjust and test again. This iterative process is the essence of design thinking.
Sell the benefits
In presenting the final prototype, students must sell the benefits and unique features of their modified mangonel. What uses might the mangonel be put to? How has their design addressed the needs of the end-user? What distinguishes their catapult from the competition? Effective marketing requires empathy and imagination – and a little flair. Go-faster stripes never hurt, either.
The Ultimate Vending Machine Challenge
For this challenge, German software giant SAP opened the doors of their creative design space, the Apphaus in CityWest, Dublin, to Innovation Academy students taking Creative Thinking & Innovation.
Design Thinking Starts Here
SAP champions a design process that is driven understanding and emphasising with end-users. By providing a working environment for R&D staff that nurtures creative thinking, the company has moved from single-discipline, lab-based teams towards collaborative, open design spaces that reduce the time it takes to bring an idea from concept to successful commercialisation.
Walk, Talk, Test
At the Apphaus, students are introduced to concepts such as ideation, effective brainstorming, interview techniques, and market research in their quest for the Ultimate Vending Machine.
Using design thinking processes such as “I like, I wish, What If…” students are encouraged move around, talk to strangers, think big, write on walls and enjoy themselves as guests of one of the most successful companies in the world.
One student commented, “The design day at SAP highlighted to me how important market research is when developing a product and perhaps the simplest ideas can be the best for the consumers. I felt the SAP environment was very conducive to innovative thinking!
The Conceptual Business Plan
Do you have a vision for how your research will change lives? What do you know about your area of research that no one else has considered?
Testing ideas in groups, learning about failure, understanding basic finance – these are all elements of our most practical of modules, Planning Your New Venture.
Turning wish lists into action lists
A key feature of this module is the conceptual business plan. Students are taught the basic building blocks and milestones of venture planning. Over the course of one intensive week, through workshops and team challenges, students gain insights into market research, concept testing, logistics, revenue models and sourcing funding from unexpected places. Students emerge with a clear idea of how to develop their research concept further, turning wish-lists into action lists.