Looking back at the pitching event
The ‘pitching’ event took place at the Kazerne in Utrecht. Participants travelled from across the Netherlands to meet their teams in person for the first time. Luckily, the rules had eased enough for every team to attend, and the clouds had eased too. So the teams were free to walk around the spacious grounds and enjoy the benches, green grass and shiny glass buildings in the sun.
Their challenge was to craft a project and pitch their provided solutions for real challenges faced by soldiers in the field.
To help them, the programme began with a pitching workshop, delivered to the screens in each teams conference room. Probably the main and most exciting feature of the day was a real Mobile Satellite Kitchen that had been driven to Utrecht from another base. The Kitchen was operated through the day by a group of friendly soldiers who were more than happy to answer student questions, aside from serving them their lunch - more on that later.
Most of the soldiers were kept occupied by the students in conversations where they learnt about each others lives. The soldiers reported that they were happy that others were interested in their day to day activities and needs. Whilst the students were fascinated to hear about experiences so far from the their normal habitats in the library.
Two main themes became apparent through conversations with the military and by touring the MSK. Sustainability and soldier welfare. The food waste and plastic packaging raised concerns amongst climate conscious students. Whilst the food quality and noisy petrol fuelled engines were the soldiers main headaches. So the requirements for a ‘perfect solution’ began to emerge. Something that would help army camps to be more green, whilst keeping soldiers motivated and merry.
Armed with new motivations, the teams worked towards focussing their research efforts towards solutions. The day concluded with pitches, delivered to the several of the main stakeholders.
After weeks working online, the teams got together next in another city. This time, the open plan and cutting edge design facilities of Tu/e were available for students to develop their ideas in material forms. Many tools were available: 3-D printing, lego, cardboard, electric drills and kitchens. Some teams came with precise, almost architectural designs that they wanted to build. Other teams needed the Bodily contact to really refine their thoughts and turn them into concrete, prototyped solutions. You can imagine which teams felt the pressure more.
Luckily for them, besides plenty of materials there were plenty of mentors. An array of expertise and guidance was on hand for any team that was stuck with their groups or had not yet decided which solution they would champion. The day was filled with intense seated discussions, brainstorming and storyboarding at the whiteboard and fun walks around the huge modern campus.
This days pitching session was far more intense. Every team was really tested on the details of their product. The feasibility of any solution depended on how mobile it was; field camps should be able to relocate within 24 hours and too much extra luggage simply would not do. There was a strong consensus between military stakeholders and students about the soldiers wellbeing and it became clear that the stakeholders had been inspired by the creativity and originality of the technological and practical proposals that the interdisciplinary teams had come up with.