New resource encourages students to pursue innovative ideas

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    TCU students from any department now have the opportunity to pitch a creative idea and work with professionals to try to turn it into a reality.

    This opportunity comes from a new program through the College of Science and Engineering.

    Idea Factory, established by Eric Simanek and TCU alumnus Cedric James, is located on the second floor of Rees-Jones. Students can utilize state of the art equipment to try and turn an innovative idea into a copyrighted prototype.

    “IdeaFactory is a networking center,” Simanek said. “We are almost like a switchboard operator, connecting students to experts on campus because TCU is a treasure chest of knowledge and abilities that most students never see.”

    The office contains four labs: a virtual reality lab with 3-D goggles, a 3-D printing lab and two private labs for students currently working on their prototypes.

    This semester, IdeaFactory is co-sponsoring the TCU App Club as well as sponsoring eight independent student projects. Each project has about two students each, Simanek said.

    While the initial goal of IdeaFactory was to aid education, James said the prototypes students are developing this year are impacting the community both in and outside the field.

    This semester, 10 students are working with the Harris College of Nursing and the College of Education to create and install a $50,000 playground, Simanek said. The students, who are working on the project for “Recess,” a credited TCU course, hope to install the playground by the end of the semester.

    Since Simanek’s office launched IdeaFactory two years ago, the initiative has completed two projects, one of which has reached over 100,000 students on a national and international level, James said.

    That project, called the Pangea Mat and Cutter, helps “students explore the evidence that Wegener used to put forward the Theory of Plate Tectonics,” according to the IdeaFactory website.

    Seven former TCU students contributed to this product, which is currently being used in 14 different state schools and abroad, according to the website.

    The following semester, a group of TCU dance majors used this idea and expanded upon it, creating “Dance of the Continents,” an original Broadway-style show.

    Since its creation, the show has been performed seven times by a total of 670 middle school performers.

    “Don’t waste the opportunity,” Simanek said. “Too many people think that college is checking off the number of boxes in a degree plan, but what TCU can offer and the IdeaFactory [can offer] is very different from that. It’s really allowing a student’s dreams to become a reality.”

    Students interested in working with IdeaFactory are welcome to come by the office and utilize the equipment including the virtual reality goggles and the 3-D printer.

    “It’s not checking boxes. It’s creating things that have never happened before and leaving a permanent mark on the physical landscape,” Simanek said.