BMES Coulter College 2018 - Genetically Engineered Chickens

By Ty Hagler | 5 Minute Read

Cultivating a community of innovation requires generosity - not just financial, but investments of time and emotion. The Coulter College event this year certainly embodied this principle as undergraduate BioMedical Engineers from public universities across the country convened in Minneapolis, MN for a four-day educational contest of who could develop the best medical device design and prepare the best investor pitch on the supporting business. The Coulter College event was organized by the Biomedical Engineering Society with support from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and hosted by Medtronic at their corporate facilities.

Four students and a faculty educator from each university were given one of three medical opportunity areas to research before the event as their homework. The broader theme has been to focus on health disparities and addressing low resource areas, which is an excellent way to practice generous and meaningful innovation. Because of the amazing opportunity to tour and learn from the largest device company in the world, the format shifted to cover some of the topics like intellectual property, regulatory, and business model through webinars prior to the event. 

This Might Not Work

On Friday morning we first toured the impressive advanced research laboratory at Medtronic, then the student teams each gave 2-minute presentations describing their need statements and project focus. Following their presentations, Ty Hagler gave a talk on brainstorming techniques and creative performance. We explored the dynamics of creative genius in 5-year olds and how school systems get too much credit for killing creativity through adolescence. We also unpacked the age distribution of fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence, demonstrating the importance of age diversity in creative teams.

The talk concluded with an intentionally absurd challenge to safely land a supersonic skydiving Tyrannosaurus Rex. The principles of good ideation worked well as teams were able to practice going for quantity and deferring judgment. The winning idea for the safe landing of a skydiving T-Rex was to genetically engineer it to turn into a chicken by the time it landed. Massive points for originality. 

Following the talk, the students then worked on refining their need statements and quickly brainstorming solutions that they could present for a series of consultation meetings with business advisors, regulatory consultants, and industrial designers from Trig. Kelly Harrigan, Brian Himelright, and Prasad Joshi worked with each of the student teams to refine their ideas through successive meetings where the designers would build them up with divergent dreams of the possible only to be convergently crushed by the business mentors. 

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