Articles tagged as: innovation
Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “An idea is salvation by imagination.” If that’s true, Texas A&M University Professor of Architecture Rodney Hill is rescuing the minds of his students with innovative teaching methods that are designed to stimulate creativity. Ideas are such a valued commodity in Hill’s classes that students are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before attending lectures.
If the waiting list for Hill’s “Environmental Design 101 C: The Design Process” class is any indication, students are happy to sign the waiver in exchange for a class with no textbooks or tests. “I tell my students to take the money they would have invested in a textbook, take that $100 and put it into a business, something from which they can reap profits,” says Hill.
And many students have done just that, patenting product ideas and launching businesses based on class projects. Patented student innovations have included everything from iPhone accessories to motion-sensor cat food bowls. One student started a business repairing iPhones, CS iPhone Repair, while enrolled in Hill’s class.
Hill, whose freshman class is open to all majors, is known for his unusual neckties and is popular among students for his anything-goes classroom philosophy. His unconventional methods include relaxation and visualization exercises, designed to put students into a creative mindset.
“Most scientists were in their early 20s when they came up with major innovations,” Hill notes. “Essentially, the 101 course is for students to discover themselves, which is what education should be about. Public schools don’t teach creativity, they teach you how to memorize information and regurgitate it on a test, not how to creatively develop ideas.”
Hill’s students participate in innovation challenges, such as the Ideas Challenge, sponsored by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, as well as a variety of other national and international contests.
Hill says he chose to teach at Texas A&M because it was the only school that would allow him to step outside a rigid outline of topics and set his own curriculum. He says the university was eager to begin new programs that would drive students to the front of their field and evolve their departments into the future.
It’s this forward-thinking that Hill drives into the minds of his students, making them aware of how future trends and theory will affect their career choices. “By 2020, roughly half of the new jobs that will enter the world have yet to be invented,” Hill muses. “By 2030, professions will be dramatically altered due to technology and innovation. I want my students to realize this.”
Hill takes this real-world approach into his lectures, even going so far as to have students participate in a business dinner simulation as part of his Architecture 458 class, “Global Ethics, Culture & Practice,” which explores the cultural aspects of business and how they differ among countries. During the two-and-a-half-hour lesson, Hill instructs students on the proper way to conduct themselves during a business dinner. “I’ve had a couple of students come back to me and say how much that helped because many of their job interviews were over lunch or dinner,” Hill recalls. “It helped calm their nerves to know they learned the necessary tools in my class.”
Accolades have poured in for Hill, including being named “creativity champion” in 2006 by the American Creativity Association. He holds the Eppright University Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence and the Harold L. Adams Interdisciplinary Professorship in Architecture. In 2011, he was selected as one of the top eight professors in the State of Texas to receive the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation Teaching Excellence Award. Campus recognitions include the Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award at Texas A&M, an honor that Hill received based on nominations from students, faculty and deans. Hill has also been selected by the students as a Transfer Camp namesake and twice as a Fish Camp namesake.
Hill’s own creative vision can be seen on the campus of Texas A&M and beyond, in wood carvings and sculptures. A mural depicting the history of Texas A&M, created by Hill and his wife, Susan, is displayed in the Memorial Student Center (MSC). The six, 8-by-3-foot walnut panels were unveiled in 1976. And his 13-foot-high sculpture, cast in bronze and carved from walnut, stands in front of the engineering building at Texas A&M’s Qatar campus and depicts the scientific advances of the Arab world. Other sculptures related to the university include the Texas A&M and Qatar University maces, The Twelfth Man Foundation Shield, Silver Taps and Muster bronze sculptures, the walnut Muster Ceremonial Table, the Ceremonial Key for the Bush Presidential Library, carved pecan sculptures in the Corps Center, and the Sterling Evans Library Obelisk for Learning.
When it comes to the creative aspirations of his students, Hill’s expectations are high and as a result, he says the students usually meet and surpass those expectations. Their final grades depend on innovation and how well they develop their ideas into a viable business.
“Everybody has some creative abilities,” Hill says. “We’re just exposing the genius that previous education has blocked. The goal is to help the students to discover their potential and become comfortable and competent in dealing with accelerating change.”
Media Contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University;
(979) 845-5591; firstname.lastname@example.org
No textbooks, no tests, no scantrons — Prof. Rodney Hill’s creativity class at Texas A&M University doesn’t have a trace of the elements found in a traditional college course, instead relying solely on discovery and innovation. After all, it’s not every class that requires students to sign a non-disclosure agreement before attending lectures.
The non-disclosure agreement, says Hill, is mandatory, as it protects students taking the course, which is formally titled “Environmental Design 101 C: The Design Process.” This is because in the decade-long existence of the course, some students who complete the class have gone on to patent their ideas for products and launch businesses based on class assignments.
In the past, Hill, a professor of architecture, structured the project-driven course in a way that focused on the future of the world — he encouraged students to look to 2030 and beyond to imagine what sorts of goods and services would need to be created to keep up with society’s growth and technology dependence.
In this semester’s course, Hill still emphasizes the future, but for the first time ever, his students’ final grades will depend on the development of their own business.
“I tell my students to take the money they would have invested in a textbook, take that $100 and put it into a business, something that they can reap profits from,” he says.
There is usually a waiting list for the freshman-level course, which attracts students of all classifications from a slew of majors. No matter his or her age or field of study, Hill says his students have an edge that serves them well, especially when they compete in innovation competitions.
“Most scientists were in their early 20s when they came up with major innovations,” he adds. “We’ve got freshmen, seniors, and they compete in these national and international competitions with graduate students from around the world, and they beat them.”
Students’ groups within the course are also strategically designed, Hill notes. He carefully breaks the students into teams of six. In each group, there are six different majors, as well as three males and three females. This, Hill says, is done to force students to interact with one another, as well as to generate even more ideas, which is possible because of the many different points of view present in each group.
The course is strategically designed to help students discover their own ideas and become comfortable with their own creativity. Hill’s early lectures focus on techniques used to reach the right mindset to generate ideas; these include relaxation and visualization exercises, many of which Hill says his former students still use in their careers beyond graduation to cultivate fresh ideas.
“Everybody has some creative abilities,” Hill says. “We’re just uncovering them. We peel back the layers, piece by piece, and anything goes.”
Throughout the semester, students have heard from several guest lecturers, including former students, who are successful entrepreneurs, budding venture capitalists and experts, all of which help the students explore different facets of turning their ideas into sustainable businesses. They have done patent searches, looked through trademarks, studied copyright law, and competed with students from across the world, all in the name of innovation.
The class has served Texas A&M students well — products and businesses that have been born from Hill’s course include CS iPhone Repair, a business that does just what it says by repairing the popular mobile device, as well as the Glif and Cosmonaut, both products of Studio Neat, another business started by former students.
“We’re helping our students discover themselves and become comfortable with what they’re capable of,” Hill says. “This course is all about self-discovery and developing innovation.”
Media contact: Krista Smith, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4645