Editorial: think[box]: beyond the possible

Many Case Western Reserve University students may not be familiar with the relatively new think[box] – which is a shame, considering the virtually unlimited possibilities think[box] will (in theory) open on campus.

The university website calls think[box] “an engine of entrepreneurial growth” – a place where students of any and all disciplines can test and develop their ideas for potentially world-changing products. Think[box] facilities are scattered throughout Glennan, Bingham, and Olin and include an electronics lab, a machine shop, computer modeling equipment, and high-powered gaming stations – as well as the recently added Prentke/Romich Collaboratory, a designated place for students to “tinker.”

think[box] is an excellent opportunity for students in all fields to flex their creative muscles, learn new skills, and potentially develop something truly fantastic. For engineers, think[box] provides hands-on experience that ties directly into their coursework, and will help prepare them for future jobs in industry. Engineers who work in a team will also be exposed to unfamiliar aspects of product development, like design and finance. Similarly, non-engineers will have an opportunity to learn technical skills and to explore the technical side of product design.

think[box] is, simply put, cool. It’s a resume-booster for anyone involved. It gives engineers a more hands-on education, and gives non-engineers a more well-rounded education. It exposes students to the challenges and rewards of the design process, and offers the exciting opportunity at an entrepreneurship while still in college. It encourages creativity, productivity, independent thinking, work ethic, and time management skills. It will also likely foster an enthusiasm for exploring new ideas and creating new things, making students more passionate about, and less bored with, their educations.

Some students are concerned that think[box] will not be very accessible to non-engineering students. While it’s true that the facilities are concentrated in engineering buildings on the main quad, this seems unavoidable, at least for now. Maybe in the future, if think[box] gets funding to expand, it can have its own designated facilities in a more central location. Until then, engineering students will continue to share some of the facilities with classes like EMAE 172.

Besides the extra half-mile walk from Mather, non-engineers should have no trouble getting involved in think[box] if they feel so inclined. The website enthusiastically encourages students of all majors to submit their ideas. And for those unfamiliar with “tinkering” – engineers and humanities majors alike –the Prentke/Romich Collaboratory offers basic machine shop training.

The major problem with think[box] right now is that few students are involved in it, or even aware of it. We would like to see better and more prolific advertising for think[box], and we hope the university continues to emphasize the non-engineering aspects of the design and development process, in order to encourage student participation from all sectors of campus.

We would also like to see professors take advantage of think[box] to incorporate demos, labs, or design projects into their classes. This could help bridge the gap between classroom learning and practical applications – especially in engineering classes, but perhaps in others as well. It would also make classes more interesting and engaging for students, and might inspire them to start their own think[box] project.

Interested students should visit the CWRU website, which outlines the details of think[box] and allows students to submit their design ideas. Don’t be intimidated; think[box] provides everything you need – space, equipment, training, guidance – to turn your ideas into reality. The more word gets out about this opportunity, the more students and faculty can take advantage of it. It is sure to build CWRU’s reputation for “thinking beyond the possible.”