Overview: The value of crowdsourcing is that you can find ideas in the most unusual of places. These five, in particular, might surprise you and offer guidance for your crowdsourcing strategy.
The Solar-Powered Wheelchair
Alper Sirvan, a Turkish man with cerebral palsy, was severely limited by the battery in his wheelchair. For World Cerebral Palsy Day in 2013, he asked for a wheelchair that either had an extended range or could run indefinitely.
A team of students from the University of Virginia responded with the solar-powered wheelchair, which drew inspiration from convertibles. With the panel as both power source and sunshade, it can go a mile per hour without drawing from the battery and for nearly five hours at 5mph, increasing the range by 40%. The team won $20,000 to refine the design and ship it to an overjoyed Sirvan, with the rest going to cerebral palsy research.
A Better Graduated Cylinder
NASA is well-known for creativity and innovation, and part of that is NASA@Work, their internal crowdsourcing platform where anyone with NASA credentials can share challenges, ideas, and solutions. In this case, a NASA team member was hoping for some ideas on how to better manage the collection of liquid samples.
Instead, they found a working prototype. And in fact, it was from somebody just 300 yards away. The microgravity capillary graduated cylinder had been developed by another group for a similar issue. And what was going to be a $1.3 million project taking several years was instead quickly approved and in the sky in months on a much lower budget.
The Bucket Mister
As we all know, a little humidity on a cool breeze can make that breeze feel that much better. Brian Stearns, working in the marketing department of Techtronic Industries, noticed that there wasn’t a cordless, portable misting fan and that furthermore, his company made all the components needed to make one that could easily be attached to the multipurpose work buckets found on job sites and backyard projects everywhere.
He quickly pitched the idea to the company’s internal platform, and engineers assembled a prototype. It was so popular that when it went to market a few months later, it sold millions of units and was awarded the project of the year. Now, bucket misters are everywhere.
Two Tools In One
Kevin Spratt, a deck force boatswain’s mate with the U.S. Coast Guard, regularly used both a boat hook and a sledgehammer as part of his work. However, these two heavy tools cluttered the deck, which was a safety risk, and retrieving one than the other took more time.
So, working with a friend, he simply combined the two, welding a boat hook onto a sledgehammer and creating the hammer hook. It’s saved time and made his workspace safer, to boot.
A Quicker Analysis
Tech. Sgt. Patrick Oliver’s job is to keep the Air Force’s equipment in top shape, so bigger problems never happen. Part of that is testing oil samples across tens or even hundreds of aircraft, and if his testing apparatus breaks or starts having issues, it causes delays across the entire exercise.
So Oliver invented a reusable cap, easily manufactured anywhere, that quickly tests oil and saves his crew ten minutes a test. That adds up to thousands of hours and dollars and perhaps lives saved.
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