Imperial HiPEDS, Cambridge Sensor, Nottingham Horizon CDTs
April 30th – May 2nd 2019 Chicheley Hall, Milton Keynes

In early May 28 PhD students from three CDTS based at Imperial, Cambridge and Nottingham participated in a two-day creativity sandpit, spread across three days. We were very fortunate to welcome to the event industry engineers who each presented a challenge, which the students would work on during the event.  The challengers were from McLaren Applied Technologies, Blue Bear Systems Research, and The Trade Desk. Each gave a stimulating briefing for their challenge: Use of sporting data to attract new audiences and deliver new levels of engagement; Use of swarms of UAVs in rapid disaster relief; Using bidding data to help advertisers plan and optimise campaigns, and help users to have better advert seeing experiences. Together with academics from Imperial, the challengers participated as mentors throughout the sandpit, giving valuable guidance and feedback. The underlying theme of the workshop was reflecting on various activities, all of which can enhance creativity in different ways.

During the first day, the students learned about the challenges, started asking questions and having initial ideas, got to know each other, and built Rube Goldberg contraptions for popping party crackers. There was also an activity to demonstrate different aids to being creative. On the second day they constructed mind maps and thought of potential solutions ideas for the problems before forming small groups to work on one of the problems for the remainder of the workshop. After initial presentations and feedback from everyone, the mentors ran a “test lab” to help the students challenge themselves further about their ideas. On the final half-day, the students presented their ideas for final feedback and then gave an elevator pitch to conclude.

Students appreciated the chance to discuss research ideas from an industry perspective and to work on real industrial challenges. The aims of the sandpit were several: to give them an opportunity to reflect on their own approaches to creative thinking, enable them to meet and work with peers from other institutions, and to discuss research with industrial engineers.

The event was facilitated by a team from The Collective.

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