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University seeks innovators, not test-takers

In the new Jamie Hyneman Center at Lappeenranta University of Technology, students are encouraged to walk in with an idea, and walk out with an invention.

Jamie Hyneman at Lappeenranta University of Technology in 2017.
Former Mythbusters star Jamie Hyneman at Lappeenranta University of Technology last summer. Image: Yle
Yle News

Following the Mythbuster star’s visit to the university last summer, Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) is putting the finishing touches on its Jamie Hyneman Center.

During a lecture he held on his visit there last year, Hyneman underscored the importance of collaboration in various fields of study, emphasising that science was like a game of experimentation. The institution apparently agreed with his ideas -- and the new centre, which will officially open in the autumn, is their response.

According to the project’s manager, Terhi Virkki-Hatakka, the school hopes the 300 square-metre facility will draw students from across different fields from the university and the nearby polytechnic.

Students are free to use the facilities as they please. The center features working spaces and labs for exploring novel uses and applications of materials like electronics, wood, plastics and metal. Creators behind the project say that ideas often hatch in informal circumstances, so the institution wants to give student innovators the power to harness those ideas as they sprout.

"A nursing student may come up with an idea that a technical student wouldn’t ever imagine. And someone with a technical background has the skill to turn that idea into an invention while a business student knows how to commercialise it," Virkki-Hatakka explains.

Doing things hands-on

The university hasn't had the tools to turn ideas into innovation, which has greatly impeded the building of prototypes, say university staff.

"It’s not our job to teach people to study for exams and take tests, but to have people graduating who know how to do things," says Mikko Kuisma, associate electronics professor at the Lappeenranta University of Technology.

Virkki-Hatakka also wants to see students approach devices from different perspectives, citing the example of repurposing a pressure washer for bending metal. A core group from the Lappeenranta University of Technology also visited Jamie Hyneman in the United States.

The Jamie Hyneman Center will be unveiled on September 29.

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