1-credit technology class offers $1,000 cash prize for innovation

Students gather in room 410 CTB, working on their final projects for the Saturday portion of a technological innovations project. (Matthew Jones)

It is 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning and students are making their way to the Crabtree Technology Building to start an eight-hour technology class. What might seem like a long day is lightened knowing they have the chance to win $1,000 in cash with their assigned team.

The BYU School of Technology allows students of any major to enroll in the one-credit-hour class, TECH 112 — Exploration in Innovation Design Techniques. Each section of the class meets twice with teams having the chance to win a $1,000 cash prize at the end of the semester.

The two-day class has students come on a Saturday to learn about innovation and brainstorm an idea or invention with their assigned team. The ideas are presented the following Thursday to a panel of judges. The winning teams from each section come back at the end of the semester to compete once more, but this time with the chance to win a $1,000 to split among themselves.

Paul Skaggs, an associate professor in industrial design, teaches sections of the class and does research in creativity and innovation, along with visual thinking and adaptive thinking. He said the class tries to focus on infusing implementation with innovation.

Skaggs said teams of students are picked at the end of each section who they think displayed creative principles of flexibility, fluency, novelty, usefulness, balance and elaboration.

Geoffrey Wright, an associate professor in the School of Technology, teaches the class with Skaggs and his brother, adjunct instructor Steve Wright. According to Geoffrey Wright, innovation is the combination of not just creativity but practical creativity and getting things to a point of monetizing or possibly having a social impact.

He said if students want to be business leaders who are successful and marketable in their jobs, they need to be trained to have an innovative mindset.

Technology and engineering studies major, Matthew Jones, is a research assistant for Geoffrey Wright. He is studying creativity and innovation within education and was a former TA for the class.

Jones said the reason they have the class at BYU is to help equip students with the skills, mindset and tools they will need to help them innovate in their chosen industry.

“The ideal outcome is that students take these ideas that they make, take this money and go do something with it,” Jones said.

The final boot camp presentations showcase the ideas and inventions the section team winners have come up with. Geoffrey Wright said several of the ideas shown are excellent and could potentially go places. However, the class purpose is to teach students about the mindset of creating amazing things.

“The point of the class is not to have the best new product, system or service,” Geoffrey Wright said. “(It) is to change your mindset.”

Skaggs said they want students to be divergent rather than convergent in thinking with the exploration of their ideas.

“If you look at research in business today a lot of the research says that for leaders of technology, creativity is one of the most important qualities or attributes they want in workers and leaders in the industry,” Skaggs said.

Jones said student groups in the past have been successful and started their own ventures and explored them through other areas on campus as they broadened their horizons.

“God is a maker. He takes a bunch of unorganized things and He makes something out of them,” Jones said. “Because we are children of God made in His image, we all have the capacity to create, and I think this class gives an opportunity to do that better.”

The class’ final event will be held in room 410 CTB on Tuesday, December 18, from 8 to 10 p.m.

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