At the beginning of December, Compuware hosted a 3D printing competition, the culmination of a series of lunch and learns organized by Compuware Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Business Development, Pete Harteveld.
The basis for the competition was to bring out the creativity, collaboration and innovation of employees from various departments and functions, ranging from HR, recruiting, facility, marketing and development, to name a few.
After searching for volunteers to serve as project managers for the teams, Compuware software developer Greg Thomas, who has experience in 3D printing, stepped up to spearhead several planning meetings and drafted a proposal detailing suggestions for printers, expected costs and what the competition would entail.
The competition, which included five teams and five printers, received an overwhelming participatory response. After each lunch and learn serving as a planning meeting, the teams would depart to discuss ideas and work together on designs to eventually print.
In the end, each team presented their designs and methodologies to a panel of judges, including Pete Harteveld; Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Kiley LePage; Director of Technical Services, Keith Sisson; and CFO, Joe Aho. Designs included:
- Team 1: Miniature trophies (jokingly allotted to the winning and losing teams)
- Team 2: Pearl Harbor ship
- Team 3: Rocket
- Team 4: Compuware logo
- Team 5: z13 Mainframe replica
The Winning Design
As Compuware is a company focused on developing cutting-edge software for IBM z Systems, it was inevitable the judges would select Team 5’s z13 mainframe replica as the winner. Still, the team took their design one step further.
As software developer and Team-5-member Donna Schroeder related to me, the team built a Raspberry Pi and created a server on it with one web page: a mock Compuware VTAM screen. To set up the network they turned a smartphone into a hotspot the Raspberry Pi connected with to be seen on that network. A second phone accessed the hotspot and accessed the Raspberry Pi’s URL to display the VTAM screen.
For their brilliant design that won them the competition, the team received $500, split between Donna and the rest of the team members, Carol Priestley, Nancy Senatore, Josh Radecki, Joey Domino, Tanjiv Azad, Todd Baert and Gene Scibilia.
Creativity, Collaboration, Support
Some designs took hours to print because of their complexity. In general, the competition and the processes involved took a lot of time and effort, but more importantly a great deal of creativity, collaboration and support from teams consisting of employees from all functional units.
For example, here in HR we never get opportunities to work alongside the people in software development. Working with these people was a great experience because they leveraged their technical acumen, acquired on the job developing innovative mainframe software, by offering valuable suggestions to help everyone bring their unique ideas to life.
As someone in a non-technical role at Compuware, I had a minimal understanding of what 3D printing was. I couldn’t picture an object being printed.
Fortunately, Greg and Connor Bratton, another software developer at Compuware, gave tutorials of the computer program participants would use to design objects before printing them. The two played a key role in helping teams understand that the design and creativity of 3D objects came down to being creative with shapes.
I must admit, at time conversations between Greg, Connor and other tech-savvy participants left me in the clouds. However, they helped a non-techie like me feel like a valuable contributor, and for Greg and Connor’s outstanding assistance throughout the competition each received his own 3D printer.
Win or Lose, Same Takeaway
In the beginning, it was difficult for me to imagine the possibilities of 3D printing, but by end, I realized there were no limits on ideas. The creativity, collaboration and support was amazing to watch amongst the teams. It was unreal to see an idea be put into a program to become a physical object. This—not winning or losing, though winning was a definite goal of every team—happened to be the real point of the competition.
I recommend trying an exercise like this with your own employees. As we learned, when you realize that regardless of your position in a company you can contribute ideas, collaborate creatively with others and support your peers, you realize you can help drive success.