Assignment #4

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I got together a small group to brainstorm on the subject of Snow and ice removal last weekend.

The participants:

Sam: A Statistics major from Carlton.

Andy: A software engineer.

Terry: A mechanical engineer.

Renee and Adam: My parents, a Lawyer and a Musician, who decided to join us.

Myself: A local product-design enthusiast.

To get everyone warmed up, I created a game called Pitchmen, in which people had 30 seconds to come up with a quick commercial for their pad of post-it notes. The catch, however, was that they had to come up with an entirely new use for the product. A couple of the highlights from the night were stick-on anti-snow dog covers, and Pocket Papercut, a portable self-defense tool.

With everyone in a silly mood, I explained the rules of the brainstorm. Fifteen minutes, no criticisms, draw ideas AND write titles, announce your ideas to the group. People mostly followed the rules. Mostly...

The prompts I gave them were as follows:
How might we make the process of snow removal easier or more pleasant?

How might we create a universal tool for clearing different types of snow?

Fifteen minutes later, we had a door covered in post-its (my house lacks good post-it-ing surfaces, unfortunately). We generated 60 ideas in 15 minutes, for a total IPM of 4.

A quick break to review the ideas, and it was time to do voting. I handed everyone 6 hat-shaped post-it notes and told them to write C on half of them, and P on the other half, for Creative and Practical. They then picked their top 5 choices for most creative and most practical idea.

The democratic process

The results

After voting, the ideas were sorted to reveal the top 5 in each category.
They are as follows:

Creative Ideas

Solar Sidewalk Heater - Adam
Similar to solar garden lights, tiny solar panels placed along your sidewalk power heated mats which melt the snow.

Vibrating Snow Shovel - Andy
A snow shovel with a vibrating motor which breaks up heavily compacted snow.

Dog Treat Snow Spray - Austin and Andy
Strangely enough, Andy and I came up with and announced this idea at the exact same time. A meat-flavored liquid is sprayed into the sidewalk which attracts dogs to come and eat the snow.

Sidewalk Electric Blanket - Sam
Sam was great at coming up with ideas by re-purposing existing products. One such example, use an electric blanket to melt snow on your sidewalk or driveway.

De-Iceing Sprinkler System - Sam
If you have a sprinkler system in your yard, simply pump de-ice spray through it instead of water in the winter.

Practical Ideas

Charcoal Powder - Andy
Andy had the idea that charcoal, since it is black, could absorb sunlight that would otherwise be reflected by the bright snow, and be used to melt through it.

Snowblower with Heated Blades - Austin
A snow-blower with electric heating elements on the edges of the shovel end.

Heated Sidewalk Tiles - Renee
Similar to a hot-pack, these tiles can store heat energy, and are then placed on a stretch of sidewalk before an impending blizzard. Snow will melt on contact instead of piling up. After the storm, simply lift the tiles up and shake any ice from the melt water off into the yard to reveal a dry, snow-free sidewalk.

Families - Renee
This was somewhat of a joke idea, but I am including it anyway because it was one of the most highly voted.

Snow Rake - Sam
Building off of leaf clearing tools, Sam came up with a rake with an inward-facing (possibly heated, he says) blade which can chop up ice as you pull it towards you.

Honorable Mention - FIRE
One of Sam's ideas was using isopropal alcohol to clear ice and snow, so we decided to give it a shot. Fire is fun! We documented our experimentation for science.

1 Comment

I really enjoyed your made-up game. Very clever and useful for getting your brainstormers’ minds moving. Maybe you could’ve added the winter theme – and they had to come up with ideas related to winter?
Good job with documenting the process with pictures. Gives me a good idea of went down in the sessions. Also the scanned images of the ideas are very clear which makes your entry more professional.
This is a picky thing, but when you transitioned from the silly game to the actual brainstorming, I didn’t quite get right away that you had transitioned. I thought when you said “I explained the rules” you were referring to the rules of the silly game. If you simply said “explained the rules of the brainstorming” or something like that, I would understand right away you were transitioning.

It would be nice if you would wrap up your entry with some writing. Maybe sum up your experience – what did you learn? What would you do differently next time? How was the brainstorming helpful to you?.. etc.

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This page contains a single entry by grang074 published on November 17, 2013 10:44 PM.

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