Chance Favors a Prepared Mind

Chance Favors a Prepared Mind


RBC chemistry teacher, Shawn Holt, in partnership with his mechanical engineer neighbor had a bright idea, kept fiddling with it, pitched it to a few investors, and voila – It’s off to the races.

Like most great ideas, it started out kind of messy and ill-defined. They had this goo that hardened on impact but regained its flexibility after the shock. When they considered infusing athletic tape with their magic sauce, they found their “A ha” moment. They got a patent, an investor and now a product – Impax brand of impact-resistant athletic tape. The product lifecycle begins anew.

The best inventions move the needle, like the best works of art – we are changed by them. We grow as a species, we evolve because of them. Not only can we think differently post epiphany, we can do differently.

Another recent example of a new way to treat an old problem is this amazing (re)design of the plaster cast. In its concept phase but certain to gain traction is this 3D-printed cast by Victoria University of Wellington graduate Jake Evill. An elegant solution for broken bones, this model replaces the usual bulky, itchy and smelly plaster or fiberglass solution that I’ve had to wear more than once!

According to an article in de zeen magazine, “The prototype Cortex cast is lightweight, ventilated, washable and thin enough to fit under a shirt sleeve. A patient would have the bones x-rayed and the outside of the limb 3D-scanned. Computer software would then determine the optimum bespoke shape, with denser support focused around the fracture itself.

The polyamide pieces would be printed on-site and clip into place with fastenings that can’t be undone until the healing process is complete, when they would be taken off with tools at the hospital as normal. Unlike current casts, the materials could then be recycled.”

If there were a Kickstarter for this idea, I’d pledge.

What other great ideas are out there and how do we find them, fund them, and inspire more of them? How can we inject this kind of entrepreneurial spirit into and onto our campus more at Richard Bland College? In what ways can we promote this type of inventive, collaborative, experimental thinking in our students, our assignments, and our learning outcomes? How can we use this model to ramp up the next Student Expo?

Some universities are already putting policies into place that will make their institutions more open to supporting and nurturing this type of collaborative entrepreneurial inventiveness. The University of Virginia’s School of Medicine was one of the first programs in the United States to incorporate entrepreneurial activities in its promotion and tenure criteria for faculty in the same manner in which technology startups reward employees for innovating new projects, products, and ideas.

We need to be creative about the schooling of business and the business of schooling to teach real world skills to solve real world problems. Whether those problems are personal – how do I pay my rent, build a company, or write a modern play? Or, humanitarian – can we replicate photosynthesis and save the planet? As usual, we need a hybrid approach fusing the 3R’s with the 4C’s. Reading, writing, and ‘rythmatic, meet critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.


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