Atkinson, Paul, Holmes, Violeta and McDermott, Catherine (2015) Evaluation of the ‘Be Innovative’ Design and Electronic Engineering Challenge 2014 and Chinese students’ response. In: Group for Learning in Art and Design (GLAD) 2015, Friday 27 February 2015, Sheffield Institute of Arts, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield UK.

UK and global economies need innovative graduates with cross-disciplinary knowledge and skills. In order to promote innovation and creativity among Chinese students ‘Be Innovative!’, an electronic engineering and design themed educational challenge, was created by the British Council in China. Partnering for this project were six UK universities: University of Central Lancashire, Coventry University, University of Huddersfield, Kingston University, Royal College of Art and Sheffield Hallam University. Additional partners included the National Institute of Education Sciences and a media partner

The 2014 Challenge focused on interdisciplinary practices between electronic engineering and design. It aimed to encourage the development of independent research, problem-solving, teamwork and project management skills amongst Chinese students, while simultaneously fostering recognition of the UK as an excellent provider of interdisciplinary education.
The objectives were to:
• Give Chinese students a chance to experience the innovative and exciting nature of UK education,
• Promote the UK as a top study destination in a creative and interactive way,
• Demonstrate the academic and research excellence of UK universities, and
• Interact with Chinese schools and universities to nurture strategic partnerships.
The Challenge was issued to Chinese Middle Schools and Universities in April 2014. Interdisciplinary teams were asked to combine innovative elements of electronic engineering and design to develop proposals for future products that would support people's wellbeing. The response was excellent: 189 teams from 19 middle schools and 66 teams from 26 universities successfully registered. Over 1000 participants from 16 cities entered the competition, and more than 3000 students from 5 middle schools attended promotional presentations. 416, 381 public votes were received for uploaded videos produced by participating teams during the preliminary stage (15 July – 18 Aug 2014).
The best 50 teams from middle schools and 30 teams from universities qualified for the second, online stage (September-October 2014), when the teams worked closely with UK academics and postgraduates to further develop their ideas. Ten teams were selected by the UK staff and by Chinese voting public to compete in the “Be Innovative” final in Beijing on 29 November 2014, streamed live to millions of Chinese viewers The winning teams will visit UK partner universities in 2015.
This presentation will take the form of a brief overview of the ‘Be Innovative’ Challenge by staff from three of the UK institutions involved, followed by an interactive Q&A session where a number of research questions arising from the experience will be addressed, including:
• What are the main challenges in running international projects at this scale?
• What are the limitations of Virtual Learning Environments (in this case OpenMoodle) in encouraging interaction with overseas students, and what are the implication for (long) distance learning?
• To what extent does the success of such interdisciplinary initiatives rely on academic goodwill and close collaboration between partners?
• The project relied heavily on the experience of UK partners involved in earlier incarnations of similar international interdisciplinary projects between Design and Science. To what extent does the nature of the disciplines involved change the interdisciplinary experience?
• Do the same differences and similarities between disciplines occurring in the UK appear on a global platform?
• How can the learning from this initiative be applied to different interdisciplinary projects currently taking place in the UK institutions involved?

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