I went for a walk through the University of Idaho’s Mechanical Engineering Design suite the other day. The tracks for hanging posters I hung in the halls 12 years ago are still in use. The rubber-band planetary gear demonstrator I made with a friend is still displayed in the meeting area. This is a community that I contributed to.

In many ways, our designed contributions are how we identify with and relate to a community through time.

To the group of UI ME graduate students that watched me in the hall, I was just a stranger passing by. When I pointed and said I made that, I became a legend, storyteller, a source of inspiration and shared connection.

I walked across the street to see the trophy case with 3 consecutive Hall of the Year Awards… and none since. A picture of me on the wall winning the Outstanding Student Award and being Master of Ceremony for the College Convocation,,, these are not used. Simply a reminder of better days past. Awards are important, but they fail to display the creativity, the thought, the continuous use of a community contribution.

Ask yourself how you will be remembered within your community. Are you contributing to facade? Or are you contributing lasting value.

Dean Kaman once said, “In a free society, you get what you celebrate.” What do we want? Awards to remind us of better times? Sure. They matter. But are ultimately made up and can contribute¬†into false facade. Designs of original contributions that enrich our culture and work? That’s what contributes the most to the community we yearn for.

In the HYPER lab we’re re-invigorating our Mad-Mondays by ending the day with a celebration of the weeks contributions to the lab community. The rules are simple:

1) your contribution must be recorded on the lab website,
2) you must present your contribution to the team.
3) we as a lab get to vote on whether to accept the contribution.

The composer in residence changes away!