Manuel Martin
Manuel Martin

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Prototyping, Pizza and Beer

The door was opened at the first ZHAW Entrepreneurship "Meet the Nerds" event: over pizza and beer, the audience could experience ...

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The door to the world of inventiveness was opened at the first ZHAW Entrepreneurship "Meet the Nerds" event. Over pizza and beer, the audience could experience how budding engineers find solutions in a playful way.

When one of the balloons bursts, the students present are startled at first. Then loud laughter followed. At the first "Meet the Nerd" event, prototypes of "pumping machines" designed by ZHAW mechanical engineering students could be viewed. Although all the exhibits look slightly different, the task was always the same: inflate three balloons one after the other and seal each one tightly.

Try it out step by step

Or another challenge: Shooting three darts at a target, whereby the desired field was determined in advance by dice. The students built the corresponding machines themselves with the help of laser cutters and 3D printers. They had to learn how to get from an initial idea via digital data to a physical solution. There is no one right solution, says Gabriel Schneider, ZHAW lecturer in product development, but many different solutions are possible:

"The students should try things out step by step until they work." Gabriel

Solutions for open tasks

Suddenly all the guests move outside. Then Gabriel Schneider starts up an adapted chainsaw water pump on which he had exchanged the chain for a water pump. A high jet of water rises, with which he used to defend himself against the water attacks of the graduates at the School of Engineering's frack parade.

"Students should arrive at solutions through experimentation and not via Google search or YouTube tutorials." Gabriel

His teaching methods in the innovation semester are also unconventional. "Engineers are only needed for open tasks for which there are no ready-made solutions," says Schneider. "Trying things out is also the reason why they want to become engineers, and not because of mathematics."

Self-brewed beer in personalised glass

Over pizza and beer, not only are the prototypes marvelled at, but there is also lively discussion and the mechanical engineering students are questioned in detail about their designs. Of course, not just any beer is served in any glass. Everyone is allowed to have their own name lasered onto their personal beer glass with the "Meet the Nerd" logo. With the same laser engraving and cutting machine that is normally used to cut components for the student project exhibits.

The beer itself comes from the brewery of ZHAW researcher Jan Inauen, who founded the Neufuhrbräu brewery. The beer is classically available as a pale, amber or dark, as well as in various flavours such as vanilla. The ingredients come from the region whenever possible and are of organic quality. This example shows that entrepreneurship can have very different manifestations, so also in combination with employment at the ZHAW.

Door opener for inspiration

In keeping with the students' prototypes, the first "Meet the Nerd" event took place in the ZHAW's new Proof of Concept Lab on the Sulzer site in Winterthur, where companies, start-ups, university institutes and students usually work together to develop new business models, product innovations and innovation methods. The event was launched by the strategic initiative ZHAW Entrepreneurship, and further events are to follow.

According to the two co-leaders of the initiative, Hanna Brahme and Anita Buchli, this series of events is intended to open the doors to such exciting worlds in as many departments as possible and to promote exchange between them. Ultimately, the events should contribute to building a diverse community of an entrepreneurial university. After all, the ZHAW Entrepreneurship strategic initiative aims to create environments, communities and opportunities for people who think and act entrepreneurially, so that they can expand their horizons and develop.


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