I told this story to an entrepreneur last weekend and she loved it. So I figured I should tell it to everyone here at AVC.
I was a mechanical engineering major (course 2) at MIT. One of the best classes in the mechanical engineering curriculum at MIT is 2.70, Introduction To Design. And the highlight of 2.70 is the contest in which everyone is given a bag of stuff from which they need to design and build a product that will compete in a contest.
My year, the contest went like this. There was a huge water tank with diving boards on both ends and a rope swing in the middle. Two contestants would put their designed product on each diving board and the one whose product got to the rope swing first would move on.
The “bag of stuff” was a brown paper shopping bag with an empty large soda bottle, the spring mechanism for a music box, a bunch of rubber bands, and so on and so forth.
I did what you might imagine, with the help of my friend Jim. We cut the soda bottle in two to create a boat, used the spring mechanism to power a paddle boat style propulsion system, and used the rubber bands to launch the boat from the diving board. It worked and I made it past the first race.
In the second race, I came up against a student who had a different idea. His product simply launched, like a rocket, from the diving board, flew through the air, and grabbed the rope swing in about a nanosecond. He destroyed me and everyone else and won the contest.
The lesson is, of course, is to skip the water.