“Our future depends on innovators who can bring together diverse talents and perspectives to imagine and implement new solutions and ventures.”
In preparation for the International Space Apps Challenge, NASA was invited to lead a Salon at Vanderbilt University as part of the Curb Creative Enterprise and Public Leadership Scholars Program. The Curb Center Leadership Salons provide some of Vanderbilt’s brightest students the chance to engage in informal conversations and hands-on workshops with leaders from across the creative spectrum. Some of their previous guests include the co-creators of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, to fashion designers and entrepreneurs. Given that the International Space Apps Challenge is one of the most creative undertakings the Agency has ever attempted, the invitation seemed appropriate!
The NASA Open Government Initiative in general, and the International Space Apps Challenge, in particular, are activities that value creativity and require “outside-the-box” thinking. The idea of a Salon incentives students to apply the use of a creative process in order to develop innovation solutions to tough challenges. The approach is much more engaging then a lecture about a topic and challenges the students to develop creative solutions to real problems facing real organizations. The Curb Center is all about understanding and applying the creative process. Through creative practice workshops, the Curb Scholars experiment and gain experience in the creative process and problem solving—brainstorming, improvising, storytelling, asking provocative questions, synthesizing ideas, using humor, recombining materials and ideas, diagnosing problems, prototyping, and pitching their innovations.
As predicted, the process works. When presented with a sub-set of the 60 challenges posted on the International Space Apps Challenge website, the students came up with some very impressive solutions. The ideas and feedback generated by the students in just a matter of hours were so good that we used them to refine and improve the challenges for the event. To give you an example of what the solutions looked like, one team took the approach to develop a challenge by NASA for schools across the nation to “Visualize the All-too-Common Astronomy/Solar System Misconceptions.”
Wouldn’t you like to party it up with an astronaut at your school?!? Visit NASA’s “How Well do You Know our Solar System?” page to enter your school in our national competition. We have listed dozens of misconceptions that exist about our universe and we would like you to solve them. Help educate others with a 1 minute music video/jingle that spreads the truth about the solar system! Next, upload your videos onto our page. You will compete with hundreds of other classes around the world for a chance to meet an astronaut. The class with the best jingle will be rewarded with an all day visit from a real astronaut! If your video is chosen, it will also be featured on television!
Not interested in creating a video but still want to be involved? Purchase your own space buddy that have been modeled after actual astronauts! Each stuffed doll comes with a URL that allows you to access your own universe. You will be able to play interactive games and build your own world! See what happens if the Earth does get bigger than the Sun! If the Sun did disappear at night! Each item purchased will provide funds for an impoverished child to learn more about the solar system by providing them with a scholarship to attend a NASA space camp!
So why does creativity matter?
In an article posted on the Curb Center’s website by Steven Tepper and George D. Kuh called “Let’s Get Serious About Cultivating Creativity,” the authors explains that “To fuel the 21st-century economic engine and sustain democratic values, we must unleash and nurture the creative impulse that exists within every one of us, or so say experts like Richard Florida, Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, Keith Sawyer, and Tom Friedman. Indeed, just as the advantages the United States enjoyed in the past were based in large part on scientific and engineering advances, today it is cognitive flexibility, inventiveness, design thinking, and nonroutine approaches to messy problems that are essential to adapt to rapidly changing and unpredictable global forces; to create new markets; to take risks and start new enterprises; and to produce compelling forms of media, entertainment, and design.”
As we get ready for the International Space Apps Challenge and start to think about the solutions we plan to develop around one of the many challenges this weekend, I really encourage you to consider your creative approach. Are you thinking about the problem in a traditional way or are you really stretching yourself creatively? What are the decisions, practices, regulations, and laws that you are letting nurture or constrain your creative work?
Please use this event as an opportunity to experiment – to learn – to try something different. Being creative may feel like a risk, but it’s one that is well worth it. You may be surprised with the results!
Johnson Space Center