Engineering students can learn how to leverage resources and take actions to create value, by participating in an innovation tournament. An innovation tournament is a fast-paced, multi-day competition offering student teams the chance to solve a mystery challenge to create as much value and impact as possible. The educational purpose of the competition is to simulate the experience of being an entrepreneur, while helping engineering students to develop skills for idea generation, teamwork, problem solving, and value creation, all in an environment of ambiguity and resource constraints.
Tournament challenges often focus on creating value from common, everyday objects, such as “sticky notes,” rubber bands and water bottles. The challenges can also be concept-based, such as “Make Saving Money Fun.” When assigning an innovation tournament as part of a course, the time period just after mid-term examinations seems to be optimal for performance. Teams can be of any size, from one person to many. Also, we suggest giving students somewhere between four and seven days, including a weekend, to complete the challenge.
As an organizer, you will select the tournament challenge, set the schedule, and organize judges and prizes. Beyond handing out grades for the assignment, faculty are encouraged to reach out to regional entrepreneurs and professional engineers for experiential prizes. Some ideas include lunch with a startup founder or investor, or perhaps one-on-one mentoring opportunities with engineers from local companies. This fun and effective competition is based on the successful Global Innovation Tournament , developed at Stanford University’s School of Engineering.
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