On a snowy spring afternoon, 75 students from the University of Denver competed in an Ideation Challenge to develop ideas for senior officials at Arrow Electronics.  

Arrow Electronics Ideation ChallengeFollowing a racing accident, in which professional driver Sam Schmidt became paralyzed, Chakib Loucif, vice president of engineering at Arrow Electronics asked his engineers to create a car that would allow drivers to use only their heads. They delivered by creating the SAM car. Now, Arrow wants to see how Arrow might be able to leverage this technology beyond driving.  

Cross-functional teams of DU students showcased their collaborative design-thinking skills to tackle the issues.Students from the Daniels College of Business, the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, the Sturm College of Law, the Korbel School of International Studies and Arts Humanities and Social Sciences took part.     

“We believe the best academic experiences at DU are experiences that are co-created,” said Brent Chrite, dean of the Daniels College of Business. In order to facilitate this kind of experiential atmosphere, Daniels worked with Arrow Electronics to put design-thinking into motion—with students at the helm. Daniels welcomed students from any school or department on campus to participate. 

“You’re going to be designing today for people with paraplegia, to help improve their independence,” Loucif said. “How can you leverage Arrow’s SAM car technology in ways that can be applied beyond driving?”

Throughout the day, interdisciplinary student teams used Play-Doh, Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, tin foil, Zip Lock bags and other materials to create prototypes aimed at enhancing the SAM car’s technology. Their inventions included headsets, hand sensors and ear pieces, all designed to harness voice commands, breath control and eye movements that could help in completing everyday tasks like showering, cooking and driving.

At the end of the work session, students presented their prototypes to executives from DaVita, AirMethods, Charles Schwab, Ball Corp, TerumoBCT, Southwest, 9News, Gates, Denver Public Schools, and HomeAdvisor. The teams also had their résumés added to Arrow Electronics’ portfolio in order to collaborate on the advancement of SAM car technology moving forward.    

“The Ideation Challenge was a creative way for DU students to come together across disciplines to help solve a real world problem,” said DU engineering student Brett Foster. “My goal is to find a career where I can work on projects like this that make a difference.” 

Watch how the challenge unfolded: