Participating in the Space Race also forced the team to think about how to best design a business that could succeed within a strict set of multivariable constraints and trade-offs. For example when NASA developed the flight control technology, cost was not an important consideration. However, once the team decided to enter the education market, then maximum market price and cost became critical.
The team’s solution to reducing cost without comprising functionality was novel and insightful. The team realized that the original technology was designed like a “Swiss Army knife,” in that it had a large number of sensors and camera’s to support all conceivable missions. While that design is valuable for NASA, it is overly expensive and burdensome for our purpose. By adding some additional firmware the system can be modified to support selected sensors in a “plug and play” fashion. This allows users to buy only the sensors they will need for each mission, reducing cost, but not overall functionality.
The fact that the challenge was conducted as a competition between different teams, also added an important dimension to the overall experience. While it can sometimes be difficult to get young people to commit a high level of effort on challenging tasks, the knowledge that we were competing directly with other teams provided a valuable incentive to set a higher standard of quality for our deliverables.
Regardless of the final outcome of which team wins the challenge, our team has benefited from process by gaining a new perspective on all the non-technical considerations that need to be addressed when starting a business.
The Center for Advancing Innovation