Mines students get innovative

Mines Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week ended on Saturday, January 21, 2017, with the Mines Innovation Challenge kick-off workshop. The week’s activities included the grand opening of the Blaster Design Factory, several workshop demonstrations and the Grand Challenge Scholars Program Launch. This year’s theme was “Sustainability in Natural Resource Industries.” The goal of this team-based competition is to apply creative, innovative thinking to real world challenges in the mining and oil & gas industries.

Throughout the kick-off workshop, Mines students had the opportunity to learn about the mining and oil & gas industries from experts, assemble into teams, brainstorm innovative solutions and formulate prototypes. At the end of the workshop, teams presented their innovation to a panel of judges, including Perry Eaton and Mike Aire from Newmont Mining and Sandy Stash from Tullow Oil. The Mines Innovation Challenge was only the first step for the seven winning teams who now have the opportunity to advance to the next stage of the challenge.

Of the 60 students that participated and the 16 teams that presented their ideas during the Innovation Challenge, seven teams were chosen to continue on with their projects. The seven winning teams were Love Glove, Vader Technologies, Time to Re-Tire, Smart Tech, ExoTech, Copper Cyanide Solutions and Pipe Dreamers.

Natalie Kalin, a member of the Pipe Dreamers team, enjoyed the quick turnaround required between problem presentation and solution generation. “Often we dwell on problems for too long, we come up with solutions that can be too complex or simply over-engineered,” said Kalin, “the quick idea generation required any and all solutions to be written down and involved genuine solutions that have not yet been nitpicked.”

Vader Technologies team disucssing their idea.

Carlos Perdomo Correa, a member of the Vader Technologies team which designed a mining respirator prototype, confessed that the idea for the team name originated from Star Wars. “Given the resemblance of the mining respirators to the Darth Vader mask,” explained Correa, “someone jokingly suggested Vader Technologies, and it was decided.” The unique set-up of the event, allowed for a “natural flow [leading] to the creation of our idea,” said Correa. Correa also commented that he would like to see an entrepreneurial speaker in the future.

Adam Marcinkowski, a student in the Geophysics Department, said he was “thrilled to jump head first into such an energizing event in just [his] second week [at Mines].” Marcinkowski also said that the competition reminded him of the “hackathon” design sprints he participated in during an internship at Facebook. “Pizza, drinks and ideation at 100 miles an hour,” said Marcinkowski. “Collaboration—in the right environment and exposed to rapid feedback—is the recipe for innovation.”

Mines Associate Professor Robin Bullock, who was an integral part of the Mines Innovation Planning Team, was impressed with the diverse group of students that developed great solutions, noting that, “both Perry and Mike [of Newmont Mining] commented that the solutions were of a higher caliber than last year, which made it difficult to select final teams.”

On April 13, 2017, the seven teams will present their final solutions and only one will be chosen to win the $25,000 grant to move forward with their innovative idea.

Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines | lpinkus@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

About Mines
Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.