Structured Creativity: Being the Piece to the Puzzle (Solution to the Problem)

In recent times, people believe that every problem has already been solved or that there are no more ideas to come up with – the difficulties and lack of creativity. This week helped us find ways around this.

To be the missing piece to the puzzle, you have to know what the puzzle is – you have to imagine what will fill in the missing spot.

This is the first thing we learned this semester – how we can address problems using What/SoWhat/NowWhat template. It is a brainstorming method that can help ideators immerse themselves in the problem/situation to be able to empathize with the user and then come up with a solution – the missing piece. This template allows people to have a structured way of being creative, innovative and problem solving. It gives a broadly scoped problem a structure, a frame and a regularities. And during this week of class, that is what we did, using the What/SoWhat/NowWhat and the HowCanWe that we learned first from our exercise with the Design for America group. Jacob Goldenberg, David Mazursky, and Sorin Solomon’s article “Creative Sparks” does a great job in explaining this and analysing the need and usefullness of the application of frames or regularities in the creative process. They even go further in giving examples and I could draw more examples from industry situations where companies essentially copy another companies process but for a different field or problem but are still deemed ‘creative’. This template used more specifically to coming up with a solution to an already given problem by using or modifying something that already existed. This kind of tied into what David Kelley said in his interview with 60Minutes.  It encompassed the How Can We methodology and the idea to improve on something else that already exists. Using what we learned, we came up with diagram below which showcases that structure that we used to come up with ideas listed below.

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We used this structure in a different way. We used it to decide which problem to tackle then applied it to that problem. As seen in our picture above

For our semester project, what we have so far:

1.) Feedback/Story droid –   inspired by the blabdroid

-How can we capture students stories in the MakerLab?

-How can we make a place (The MakerLab) more interactive?

2.) Self Watering Plant pot – inspired by a thingiverse model

-How can we help potted plant goers water their plants when they are not around?

3.) Board copier/transfer – our very own idea

-How can we help students with limited/timed access to whiteboards keep/transfer their work to another whiteboard or physical print?

4.) Time management compact holder/watch – our very own idea that we came up with using the template in the picture above.

-How can we help busy students manage their time or balance between (Sleep, Study and Social Life)?

We also got to listen to Mike Bohlman tell his story in creativity and the maker movement at the Makerspace in Urbana. Not only is he a pilot and gamer but he is a maker who comes up with ideas in the area of former two such as 3D printing holders for instruments in the cockpit for one of the planes he flies and the StarWars game that he made and is up for display at a game store in Champaign. To see more of his great work and projects, they are all available on his website at this link. He incorporates the lessons (templating) we learnt this week in his work with arduinos by improving and modifying code that he finds online in a new and innovative way.

This concept of structured creativity is a powerful concept, and I hope to incorporate it in our semester project. Other resources to learn more about this is also Edward de Bono’s article ‘Creativity is easier when it’s structured’.

Week 2 Summary: Diving Deeper

Week 2, Monday, late-afternoon and the MakerLab is filled with the sonorous sound of the 3D printers whizzing away. Walking into the familiar classroom to not only hear the soothing buzz of creation but also to feel the ambiance of the eagerness to learn and have fun were certainly worth the climb and much-needed exercise up to the top floor of the Business Instructional Facility.

Week 1 was all about settling into the class with an introduction and overview of what “making” with alumni Arielle Rausin and John Hornick. Arielle, a local entreprenuer, talked about her glove business (mainly for wheelchair racing) and how 3D printing enabled her to become so successful in her innovations. John Hornick, the author of 3D Printing Will Rock the World dove into what 3D printing has in store for users in the future and how it changed the way people design, make and interact with the world. This week, we learned about additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping. We had the privilege of listening to the guest lecturer and Director of the Champaign-Urbana Community (CUC) Fab Lab, Jeff Ginger. We also successfully reviewed the two learning objectives: discovering different websites where other people create and share different designs of objects and learning the basics of 3D printing.

To start off the class, we split up into 7 different groups to explore different sites in which different people from all around the world shared their creations. Many of these sites such as and are open source and let beginners and advanced makers alike share and create designs to tinker with. These sites are platforms that make such “blueprints” easily accessible and have become important in the Maker Movement.

Here are the links to the sites that we explored in this class:

After going over these online sources, Jeff Ginger talked about the CUC Fab Lab, which is an open and collaborative workshop space for technology-driven innovation and design. The facility and other Fab Labs are central players in the Maker Movement (a social, economic, and political movement that incorporates both technology and DIY culture). Within the CUC Fab Lab, Jeff brought up the extensive equipment such as engravers, electronic cutters, sewing machines, and 3D printers, that enables local entrepreneurs and students alike to create their own products. The CUC Fab Lab also enable and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to stop by and explore the facilities with the help of the staff and volunteers. One example Jeff showcased was Monet and the Waterlily Friends, a children’s book by Judy Lee, an artist, and entrepreneur, that started at the Fab Lab and was successfully kickstarted. The Fab Lab encourages people to become makers through exploration of the design. You can learn more about the Fab Lab by visiting .

After the guest presentation, we learned more about the basics of 3D printing such as the STL file (a file format used in 3D printing). We went onto to find simple objects such as a toothbrush holder, a grocery bag holder, and an Illinois state keychain to print. We used the computer application, Cura, to help transfer the data to the 3D printer (through an SD card).

A 3D printer in action.
Charlene's finished Illinois keychain
In general, the students this week had fun and learned more in depth what 3D printing is. Many of the students before this class never saw 3D printing as something important. For a lot of the students and certainly myself included, this week was the first week we printed. Personally, I was definitely surprised and felt pride and accomplished that I was able to make my own keychain. The following are several students’ views of the course and Week 2’s activities:

“Before this course, I had never realized the importance of the Maker Movement that was being created and developed within the community.” – Charlene


“As we approach week 3 of the Digital Making class, I can say that this class has been extremely enjoyable thus far. There have been many things I’ve learned already and this is coming from someone who was going to buy a 3D printer about two years ago.” – Jorge


“Mesmerized by the 3D printer in action, buzzing away as it slowly built my model one layer at a time, I certainly felt like I was a little kid again.” – Tiffany

Before the class meetup, we were also required to read The Maker Mindset and Neil Gershenfeld’s “How to Make Almost Anything.” While Gershenfeld raised more legal and moral concerns regarding the printing and possible fabrication of designs, The Maker Mindset took a more positive approach in commending how the Maker Movement transforms education by challenging and offering limitless opportunities for students to innovate and create their own objects. Personally, this hit a chord with me and reminded me that while this course encouraged us to push for creativity, challenge our thinking, and succeed in our projects, it was also an opportunity to fail and learn from mistakes. Many courses in the business school do not allow a lot of buffer room to make mistakes, learn from them and redeem them. Yet, after just week 2 and being able to observe not only an excellent professor with over 10 years of teaching, 4 of those years as the director of the Illinois MakerLab guiding us, but also being able to have hands-on experience and first-hand accounts of the digital making process, this class has already surprised me and have definitely spiked my interest. I am sincerely and genuinely excited to see how this class will shape and mold us into the creative and innovative future generation. I hope that in Week 3 will be just as enticing when Design for America presents about Design Thinking.

If you want to learn more about Week 2 and are interested in what individual students learned, here is the link to the Week 2 reflections:

Week 2 Reflection: The Age of 3-D Printing

So far it has been two exciting weeks of classes; listening to John Hornick talk about the future of 3-D Printing in the first week of class really manifested my curiosity towards the age of 3-D printing.

For week two, we had Jeff Gringer, who is the director of Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab come and talk to us about the Maker movement and his role in shaping future societies. The Fab labs play a crucial role in the Maker Movement, which is a social, cultural and economic movement that promotes creativity and learning  by integrating computer-tools with the do-it-yourself (DIY) culture. Originally started at MIT, there are now over 200 Fab labs across the world impacting children and adults of all backgrounds. One of the prominent feature of the Maker Movement, as described by Dale Dougherty in “The Maker Mindset” , is its potential to change the education system for the better. It is absolutely incredible to imagine that in the next 15 years, middle and high schools will slowly move away from rote learning methods and rather learn through creating, building and making things come to life with the help of the Maker Movement. I personally believe its going to simulate the next generation to create products and shape society in ways never thought of before and I can’t wait it.

Imagine going to and buying a table and then starting a print at home using your own personal printer! Class this week for interesting as we got to actually print our own products. Websites like thingiverse and shapeways allows users to not only browse through various products and collections but also download these designs for free and print them at home. From visually pleasing designs to useful day to day household products, these sites are slowly grabbing people’s attention allowing people to sell as well buy designs and market cool new products.

On the other hand 3-D printing is revolutionizing the health industry at the same time. Doctors and research scientists are digitally scanning organs and printing them out to simulate surgeries and save lives as seen in this video below.

Week 2 of class not only taught us how to download a design we like and print it but also inspired us to be a part of the Maker Movement and impact the society we live in today.