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Mystery Box Challenge

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Team Building With A Twist

Author: Heather Hambright, Desiree Wilson and Dr. Pamela Larsen | Category: Around Campus | June 30, 2014

An innovative team building activity was put to the test by 50 graduate students at the annual Cellular and Structural Biology Retreat. This program, designed solely by graduate students Heather Hambright and Desiree Wilson with the support of Dr. Pamela Larsen, was created to provide an innovative activity to build community among the students. Unbridled creativity was to be rewarded in this timed science competition.

This student-led activity took place during lunch where students sat at reserved students-only tables surrounded by interested and intrigued onlookers of faculty and post-docs alike. 

At the center of each table was a “mystery box” that contained the supplies from which they had to create a novel organ or organelle. Eating and brainstorming was followed by divvying up the tasks of building and writing, with an eye on the clock. 

The student’s teams wrote an abstract that explained their design and major advantages to having the novel organ or organelle. Dr. Weiss, the dean of the graduate school, was very enthusiastic and supportive of this endeavor, generously providing the financial support necessary to obtain supplies and team prizes.

“The collaborative efforts and teamwork amongst the groups were amazing to watch!” said Heather Hambright. “There was such fluid creativity, with each project design being exceptionally unique.” Each team presented their item and fielded questions.

Then fellow students scored each creation. The activity had been limited to 80 minutes, yet it was evident that detailed discussion occurred in development of highly desirable adaptations to modern lifestyles.

At the end of the retreat, Desiree Wilson presented the winning teams their prizes. The 1st place team designed a novel “aggressive cancer killer cell,” which specifically attacks and kills cancer cells using a wide mouth and multiple receptors. The second place team designed “holy hands,” which had an extra set of lips and airways located on the hands for more mobility to select what air to inhale.

“We appreciate Heather, Desiree, and Dr. Larsen making this happen. Events like these help establish a community among our trainees and faculty. And it is great to see the students being creative and having a blast at the same time." Dr. David Weiss, Graduate Dean.

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