Learning by Solving: Real-world Challenge Solved by Undergrad Team at University of Ottawa

Posted by TimOBrien on Jul 29, 2011 11:24:56 AM

uOttawaToday's blog post was written by Tara Crawford, a member of a student team of undergraduates at University of Ottawa that received an award for the Challenge "Nuclear Test Monitoring and Verification Methods". Tara discusses how an InnoCentive Challenge was incorporated in to an undergraduate course, and how she and her teammates were inspired to collaborate and develop a winning solution to this real-world problem. The team members were Veronica Santos, Cody Sarch, Phil O'Hearn, Christine Achampong, and Tara Crawford.

We solved the Challenge "Nuclear Test Monitoring and Verification Methods" as a group in a fourth-year Biotechnology course this past year. The criteria for the course was to invent something and file for a patent. Our professor also urged us to look for online Challenges.

We looked at the InnoCentive website and thought that "Nuclear Test Monitoring and Verification Methods" was a good opportunity for us to apply our science background as well as learn new areas (we are a group of five students in Biochemistry, Biomedical Science/Chemistry, Biopharmaceutical science, and chemical engineering). We researched many experts in the field and invited them to be guest speakers in our class so that we could ask them questions about the topics we were trying to apply to our solution. We needed to expand our knowledge into the radionuclides that we wanted to detect and the methods currently available to do that, as well as other possibilities that had not been investigated yet.

Our class consisted of 3 hours of lecture time a week where we initially learnt about patenting, intellectual property, and were able to brainstorm with our groups.  Then we also had an extra 1.5 hours a week to meet in an informal lecture setting and discuss our progress. Outside of class time our group met 1-2 times a week to work more specifically on our solution. This involved a lot of brainstorming and allowed us to bring together all of our individual research.

The experience was a great one for us. We learnt a new way of learning since it was a hands off approach by our professor. Throughout our undergraduate degree we had taken many courses that were very structured, but this allowed us to do whatever topic we wanted. We improved our team building skills and really got an idea of how our previous knowledge could be applied to the real world. We all really enjoyed it, although it required a lot of self discipline to ensure we met deadlines!

Topics: Solvers

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