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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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October 24, 2017

Scary Towers Haunt Campus During Innovation Challenge

Scary Towers Haunt Campus During Innovation Challenge
Anna Brodersen and Michael Eesley explain their winning design to judges at the Innovation Challenge.
Five student teams competed to build the scariest tower in the festive Innovation Challenge held by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Center for Entrepreneurship. The competition required students to use a pumpkin, 10 dollars and a Center for Entrepreneurship t-shirt as part of their structure which culminated with a construction project on the lawn of the Selleck Quadrangle.

Dr. Samantha Fairclough, assistant director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, outlined the parameters for the competition. Then the competitors planned, designed and built their towers in five days.

“The whole point is for students to have fun with creativity, which is the first step in the entrepreneurial process,” said Fairclough. “It’s a way to work together in teams and meet new people along the way.”

No ladder, no problem for these competitors in the Innovation Challenge.
No ladder, no problem for these competitors in the Innovation Challenge.
Under the rules, the five teams could interpret “scariest” tower however they wanted. The towers needed to be at least 2.5 feet tall and support a large pumpkin for at least one minute. No ladders could be used in the process.

“We give them the challenge and then wait to be surprised by their interpretations. It helps them get their creative juices flowing, and ultimately makes it fun for everyone,” said Fairclough.

The winning team consisted of Anna Brodersen, a junior economics major from Kearney, Nebraska, and Michael Eesley, a junior management major from Omaha, Nebraska. The two thought they had everything in order until wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour gave them a surprise the final day.

“We set our tower up the day before the final competition and everything went fine so we thought we didn’t have anything to worry about,” said Brodersen. “We quickly realized we’d have to think on our feet when strong gusts of wind entered the picture the final day. We came prepared with extra stakes and string in order to adapt.”

They designed their tower in part based on hammocks Brodersen remembered from family camping trips. They borrowed rope and found free wood on Craigslist to round out their supplies.

“This definitely taught us to think outside the box,” said Eesley. “As we kept going we streamlined our options and discovered if you step back and think about things you can eventually get to the best answer.”

Broderson and Eesley battle the wind while erecting their 'scary' structure.
Broderson and Eesley battle the wind while erecting their 'scary' structure.
They discovered their best answer to making the structure scary was to look at it from a practical point of view.

“We realized our structure wasn’t scary so we thought about what scares college students – bad grades and student debt. We stapled papers to the structure related to bad grades and debt which gave it more of a real life scary vibe than a haunted theme. The papers stayed attached in the wind just long enough to qualify for the required one minute,” said Eesley.

Participants from the top three teams all received $25 Amazon gift cards made available from an endowed gift to support entrepreneurial endeavors via the University of Nebraska Foundation.

To learn more about programs at the Center for Entrepreneurship, visit: