June 20, 2014

Brainstorming Activity | Spring 2014

Karen Tran
Danica Ly
Judy Zhu
Billy Wong
Sarah Swagerman

Part A: Top Invention of the Last 40 Years

Determining the top invention over the last 40 years may seem like a fairly simple task, but it
can be quite daunting when you realize the progress society has made in this regard in the last 40 years.
The last 40 years have been a time of steady innovation and the move towards what may be the
technological revolution. It is hard to narrow down the choices, since our lives are very different from
the lives of our parents or even our older siblings as a result of the rapid and exponential innovation that
has occurred.
We began the search for the answer by thinking of the things that we could not live without,
things that our parents did not have but we do, and researching other influential inventions to compile a
large list. We tried to broaden it by considering different parts of our lives - including household items
and health advancements - in order to add things that were not only technological advancements.
Once we had a very broad list of ideas and possibilities, we used the following criteria to
determine their suitability for the list of top inventions in the last 40 years:

a. Did it make a significant impact on the lifestyle of our society?
b. Did it lead to other important innovations or inventions?
c. How widespread and readily available is the product on a global level?

The process of deciding the top 9 significant products stemmed from the assessment of each
product idea using the criteria previously mentioned. To rank the top 9 we revisited each product and
discussed the extent to which it met our criteria, as well as considering our own personal thoughts and
experiences regarding the product. We ended up with the following list of our top 9 inventions of the
last 40 years:

1. Personal computers
2. The MRI
3. Smartphones
4. The word processor
5. The personal GPS
6. Compact discs (CD)
7. Laser & inkjet printers
8. Post-it Notes
9. The pop-can tab to open your beverage

We will only discuss in detail why the top two are the MRI and the personal computer. The rest
of the list simply provides a good indication of the breadth of our search. Everything from an application
for word processing like the one we are currently using, to the tab I used to open my drink without any
other tool. We tried to identify inventions that might affect the world over, not just university students
in Waterloo, Ontario.

The second most important product that has been introduced to our society within the last 40
years is the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This piece of equipment has allowed medical
professionals to monitor bodily functions and diagnose health problems. The MRI technology has played
a significant part in advancing the medical field and the society
that we live in. The MRI scanner creates a magnetic field around
the focused area, then creates a radio frequency which
produces an electromagnetic signal that the scanner detects to
create an image of the focused body part. This image can help
distinguish between normal cells and abnormal or diseased cells
to aid in the diagnosis of tumors and other abnormalities. Due
to the lack of radiation, the MRI has been more highly
recommended when compared to a CT scan which carries the
risk of radiation. Through the MRI scanning technology, medical professionals now have advanced
technology to help them investigate the human body and accurately diagnose and treat patients while
also discovering diseases, injuries and other medical problems. The MRI created a gateway for many
new discoveries and research abilities. Due to the ability of the MRI scans, the research of the human
body and its inner workings has also increased significantly. It has allowed for further study of specific
body parts and bodily functions such as the study of brain functions by psychologists. Although the MRI
scan is readily available throughout North America and other developed countries, it is usually not
heavily available in smaller developing countries. However, its importance is significant enough that
people seek out places to have an MRI scan performed on them.
The number one most significant product and invention of the last 40 years is the personal
computer. Although the invention of the computer emerged in the 1940's the availability and popularity
of personal computers that could be in the home did not occur until much later. After the 1970's the
personal computer became a commodity that revolutionized the professional & educational realms as
well as impacting the personal lives of each and every person within our society. The workstation
computer was equipped with technical and mathematical applications which aided the quality and
quantity of work done at the office. The desktop computer which was found in both schools and homes
greatly impacted our ability to learn information.
In schools, the personal computer allowed
students to do external research that could not
be found in books, and allowed students to use
applications such as word processing to
document and present their thoughts, ideas and
complete assignments. At home, the personal
computer allowed for more flexible work
environments. The personal computer is
responsible for the invention and innovation of
many of the technologies & services that we
ourselves could not live without today. It is also
responsible for the emergence of new markets

and industries that would not exist without the personal computer’s creation. Due to the personalized
computer, the market for hardware and software has exploded. Software companies such as Microsoft,
Apple, and Linux have exploded and dominated the markets due to personal computers. The PC has led
to the inventions of similar products which offer convenience and efficiency for their consumers; these
products include laptops, netbooks, tablets, e-readers and handheld PDA devices. Since these products
are in such high demand, the desire to create new, stable, and exciting products has led to the further
innovation of many of these products. These innovations include improvements in the design, stability,
and reliability of each product, as well as the expansion of the purposes and usefulness of the product
by adding more applications and features. When the PC was first introduced it was very expensive and
only the most wealthy and advanced people were able to afford them. Currently, the PC is highly
affordable and can be found in almost every home worldwide.

Part B: The Most Significant Good or Service of the Future

In the present day, we often already get comments asking, "It's 2014; why aren't there
hovercrafts yet? Why can't we fly yet?" However, in 2052, we believe that the hovercraft would have
long been invented, and would be the most important and significant new commercial product
introduced. This hovercraft would resemble that of a commonly-seen sedan that populates the streets
in present day 2014. The features would include built-in GPS system; contractible wheels; auto-pilot,
auto-parking, and auto-landing; CO2 and a control centre that is able to adjust elevation. Furthermore,
this automobile will run on or solar panels, and will be able to land on multiple types of surfaces
including terrain, water, sand, and more.
Discussing this invention, we will refer back to the previous three criteria listed in Part A when
determining which invention from the last forty years was the most significant. The questions will be
altered slightly to be reflective of the future quality of this invention.

Will it have a significant impact on the lifestyle of our society?

Yes, the invention of this specific model of hovercraft with the specified features will
allow for reduced traffic, thus leading to reduced time in the vehicle. With the contractible
wheels, drivers will have the option of either driving on the ground or hover-driving. This will
reduce the number of cars on the ground, possibly reducing collision and travel time. Also,
because it will be powered by CO2 or solar panels, depending on the model, it will reduce
pollution, proving to be an environmentally friendly invention.

What led to the development of this hovercraft?

Connecting to the above themes, the reason for this invention will be two-fold. First of
all, with the continuing exponential increase in population, there will be a growing number of
cars on the road, thus increasing commute and travel times. With the option to fly the
automobile, consumers now have alternatives to reaching their destination, which will in turn,

reduce travel time. Furthermore, gasoline is a depleting resource, and with environmental
concerns on the rise, the environmentally-friendly vehicle will be able to assist in the protection
of our planet. The design will be a hybrid of two already popular methods of transportation: cars
and aircrafts.

How widespread and readily available will this product be on a global level?

This product will be more widely used in developed countries where traffic and
environmental concerns are a main focus of the society. This invention will have an expensive
price tag, much like the advanced hybrid model cars of 2014. However, in the long run the cost
of running this car will offset the price. This product will be marketed to all audiences in order to
engage the growing population in an initiative to protect our planet. This would promote and
spur thoughts of sustainable living.

Part C: Process

Before beginning this Brainstorming exercise, we realized it may take some research to be able
to properly complete the assignment. Given we were all not around until the early 90’s, we sent out a
message to the group asking everyone to read the assignment ahead of time, do a little research and
have some ideas ready to share when we got together for the meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, we decided to sit in a circle and yell out what we thought was
the greatest inventions since 1972. This was done with some research on the internet, and thinking
about what our parents may not have had that we now cannot live without. We ended up with a list
that included 15 inventions. We thought the list was too long and wanted to eliminate some of the
products that were not as significant as the others. This is where the first minor challenge took place.
We had to come up with a few criteria so that we could remove some inventions from the list in a
rational way instead of based on pure personal feelings.
We all agreed on our first 2 criteria, which are: “How did the invention change the society?” and
“Did it lead to any other inventions or innovations?” but we had to have a little bit of discussion
regarding the third one. Someone thought the last criteria should be “Did the invention improve the
efficiency of the economy?”, and the others believed that the question we chose: “How widespread and
readily available is the invention?” was more appropriate. After further discussion it was put to a vote,
and we finally agreed that the last criteria was to be “how widespread is the invention” because we
thought that improving economic efficiency is somewhat similar to the impact on the society.
After we agreed on the criteria, the next step was simple. We looked at our 15 inventions,
applied each of them to the criterion, and took out those that were relatively weak. For example, we
took out YouTube. Although we believed that it had a big impact on the society on how people find new
music and enjoy their spare time, lack of invention or innovation extend from it, and YouTube is not very
widespread in the world. For example, people in mainland China cannot access YouTube. After we did
this for each invention, we were left with 9 inventions that we believed had significant impact on

We moved onto Part B after we ranked the inventions. Part B was the most challenging part of
the assignment but we ended up using a lot of SCAMPER techniques without even realizing. We thought
of Google Glass first and substituted saying, “What parts instead?” and came up with the idea to make
them contact lenses instead of glasses. When talking about our Hover Car invention we Combined
saying, “combine ideas” and thought maybe this vehicle runs on a renewable energy source. We
thought we could put it to other uses, and thought maybe it could clean the air, or float on water like a
boat. There are a lot of obstacles that kept us from completing the question. The first obstacle I believe,
was that the question is asking about invention that will be invented in the next 40 years, but we are
living in a world that is already highly developed. It is very challenging for us to think outside the box to
come up with a brand new invention or an innovation from today’s products. Our second obstacle was
that, after we finally came up with the new product, we still needed to decide what the product can do,
and what the true value of product is. This is also a difficult part of this question due to the same reason
as above. We thought of anything we can think of for a long time and come up with 3 products that
could be invented and marketed in the future: hovercrafts, Google Glass contact lenses, and a
holographic cellphone.
When discussing Part C of the assignment, we started noticing things about our process. We
tend to debate our thoughts, we share experiences and stories, and we found ourselves laughing at how
ridiculous some of our ideas sounded. We believe this is all part of the team brainstorming process and
we were satisfied with the result.