IdeaLAB bonds business and engineering colleges

The Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration and the College of Engineering have come together to create a new learning environment called IdeaLAB. A number of faculty members from each college collaborated on the initiative, and with the support of the deans, they then sought students to get involved.

The project is in its first semester and there are approximately 30 students involved, mainly from the business and engineering colleges. The students were instructed to pick an area where they wanted to study and create a project or service within that area.

The main idea behind the initiative was to create the project or service with the intent to benefit community and economic development. Since each project would require a large amount of involvement, the students needed to understand the market they were pursuing and the emotional needs of the consumers within their specific market.

Jim Brown, a management and marketing professor in the College of C&BA, is one of the faculty members associated with the initiative.

“This is an opportunity for the students to learn by doing. They are also given the chance to experience the opposite end of the developmental process by following the project from identifying the concept to carrying out the physical aspects,” Brown said, “The business students are learning where the projects ends up, while the engineering students are understanding where the idea for the project originated.”

Brown suggested there is the potential to incorporate freshmen and sophomores in the future so they will have the opportunity to grow dramatically by the time they reach their junior and senior years.

The departments are still working on the creative space, which is being completed in Hardaway Hall, but the students are already hard at work.

There are numerous technological components to the initiative, one of which Brown explained to be 3-D printing capabilities in order to create the prototypes for the projects. These prototypes are for the students as well as future consumers to learn about and test the products.

“I have had the opportunity to jump into the initiative during its first semester,” said Jared Witherington, one of the students involved in the project.

Witherington explained IdeaLAB as “a place to build creative teams and give them the opportunity, space and guidance to create radical solutions to difficult problems.”

Witherington is one member of a four-person group working to create a solution for getting children excited about eating healthier, natural, locally grown foods in an effort to improve their quality of life.

The IdeaLAB information page on the C&BA website explains the project as well as its specific goals. The goals include fostering creativity and problem solving, creating tools and processes to deliver solutions to challenging problems, pursuing action with a vengeance, learning about issues and improving solutions by use of prototypes, identifying measures of creative performance and becoming a catalyst to revive economic and community development.

For more information, visit the website at www.cba.ua.edu/idealab.