Academic Conference exercise is nerdy fun
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
When faculty members first sat down at their tables on Tuesday morning for Grand Canyon University’s 2014 Annual Academic Conference in Antelope Gym, they couldn’t help but notice the baskets in the middle.
Each had five or six items ranging from everyday to highly unusual. Some examples: a plunger, LED light, bald man’s comb, putty, forensic kit, paint roller, light-up bracelet, solar lamps and glow sticks.
Either these were some very strange raffle prizes, or Haley Peebles, associate director of the University’s Center for Integrated Science, Engineering and Technology, had a creative challenge in store for the attendees.
Little did they know how creative. The people at each of the 45 tables had 15 minutes to improve one of the items with a new design, repurpose an item or build something new using multiple items. In their presentation they had to demonstrate the problem their gadget solved, define its target market and tell why consumers would want it.
And the winners: a team from the College of Doctoral Studies that built not just one but two items, a “night light” and a “math wheel.”
To create the night light, first envisioned by Stephanie Henkel, they used a craft stick as the base for the light and added a hand noisemaker to the base of a toilet paper dispenser to emulate a motion detector. The math wheel was attached to a plunger, and it had flash cards connected to a Frisbee disk with the help of Velcro from a handball.
Their prize: a “nerd pack,” which consisted of a free meal voucher for the Student Union, a GCU tote bag and, of course, a box of Nerds.
“It was a fun activity. Kudos to Haley for putting it together,” said Dr. Michael Berger, the Doctoral Studies dean. “It really underscored what we’re trying to do with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum.”
Peebles told the crowd, “This activity demonstrates you all have an engineering mindset.”
The laughter as each team presented its “invention” was uproarious.
“It was neat seeing what everyone else came up with,” Berger said. “The room got pretty loud.”
Figures that the brainiacs in Doctoral Studies won the prize, right, Dr. Berger?
“No, no, no, don’t start the story with that,” he said.
He didn’t say anything about ending the story with it. Hey, we’re just being creative, too.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or [email protected].