This May, I had the privilege of traveling to Nicaragua to work with some very creative college students and faculty at the university of Nicaragua (UNAN). I supported Grand Valley State University’s “Applied Global Innovation” initiative as both a Tiger Studio designer and educator.
The mission of the initiative is to teach young minds how to channel their creativity into new product ideas that could eventually turn into new businesses and help spark growth in their local economy. Fundamentally, it is about teaching people how to identify problems, investigate solutions and position their ideas well; innovation in a nutshell. The participants, roughly 100 students and 25 faculty members from UNAN, go through a crash course in basics of design and marketing. In just five short days, they define an opportunity, frame the idea, test it, design it, mock it up, validate it, and pull it together in a comprehensive presentation to local business owners and University administrators.
I was there as part of a multi-disciplinary team with GVSU professors, Dr. Paul Lane and Dr. John Farris, Waltraud Beckmann and other GVSU supports, Kendall College design students and fellow Tiger Studio designers, Rury Vizcarra and Adrienne Pennington, to help support the 25 project teams along the path. We encouraged and challenged the students every step of the way and they responded with vigor as we helped re-frame their problems to inspire refined solutions.
The region is burdened with several challenges, including: lack of clean water, health case, power, fuel and food. The goal of the experience is to inspire the students to be conscious of opportunities to improve the quality of life and learn how to turn their loval resources into something valuable and marketable.
Some of the final product solutions included:
- An LED reading light made from recycled pen tubes
- A filter that uses rice husks to clean grey water waster for use in gardens and cleaning
- A simple electronic pulse reader that is powered by a cell phone
- An agitation-powered LED lamp for indoor and outdoor use
- A mosquito catcher for kids rooms to help prevent against malaria or dengue fever
- A small stove that utilizes saw dust/pulp as fuel
- A device that cuts recycles PETE bottles into strips for weaving
- A pulley fan that uses weights to drive a motor instead of power
In the coming months, Tiger Studio will work with GVSU to select the top three to five concepts based on manufacturing feasibility, ability to utilize local resources, marketability and potential impact on the local economy. The winning project teams will be invited to participate in an accelerator style program.
In August, we will return to Nicaragua with an army of designers, technical specialists and business minds to help refine, prototype and validate the designs in an effort to prepare soon-to-be entrepreneurs for entry into the market. This will be the second year for the follow-up accelerator program. One of the products from last summer, a solar powered LED lamp that uses upcycled CDs as a reflector, is well on its way to market as we speak. I cannot wait to see how far we take the new bath of ideas in August with all we learned in May!
Check back in later this summer for updates, photos, and more about our progress in Nicaragua and the winning ideas.