A skier struggles to clear the condensation fogging up his goggles. A cyclist wrestles with a poorly designed bike rack. A winter hiker navigates a new path to avoid a deadly avalanche. As part of the spring collaborative studio Product Design and Development, approximately 100 students from RISD and MIT split into 15 teams to create innovative products to address these and other troublesome conundrums.
In mid-May the student teams presented their proposed products and business models to a panel of product development professionals, including representatives from Apple, NASA, Google and IDEO, among other cutting-edge companies.
“Each of the teams found solutions to real-world problems,” notes Matthew Kressy 88 ID, a senior critic who teaches at both RISD and MIT. “This studio was a great learning experience for students because they were encumbered by realistic design constraints. After working together for 12 weeks, they came up with great products.”
If any of the proposed products actually makes it into production, the student entrepreneurs could potentially hit massive pay dirt. At the final review, critics predicted that MotoCyclone – a motorcycle helmet that keeps its wearer cool – has the potential to be a smash with a large pool of buyers interested in enjoying the open road on hot summer days. Reviewers also responded favorably to Scrape Tape, a Band-Aid dispenser that eliminates the need for individual packaging, and Steam-EZ, an easy-to-use liquid microwave cleaner that was praised for its universal appeal and low price point.
“There are various reasons why these products have the potential to be successful,” explains Kressy. “Some of the devices are so spectacular – customers would pay any price to have one. Other products would generate a profit because they provide a convenience at an affordable rate.”
Some of the innovations developed during the semester tug at the heartstrings. For instance, Denise Thornberry 14 ID worked with MIT students to conceive of Fantastic Faces, a coloring book designed to cheer and protect pediatric cancer patients. Each page can be torn out and fashioned into a facemask that shields patients’ fragile immune systems from harmful microbes. The book comes with non-toxic markers and illustrated prompts to encourage kids to personalize their masks themselves.
One of the most viable products presented is NiceWipe, a windshield wiper redesign that makes replacing blades a quick and painless process. Instead of detaching the metal arm, the user is able to swap out the rubber blade in a matter of seconds. “See how easy it is to use?” asks Bradley Genser, a gradate student at MIT’s School of Engineering. “All you have to do is pinch, pull, push, click and put the wiper down. It’s that simple.”
According to Paul Savovici 13 ID, the team proposed countless iterations of the NiceWipe design. But after the semester-long collaboration, the partnership between MIT and RISD students not only resulted in a great design, but also in an equally brilliant business model.
“In the beginning of the process, coming up with ideas was like throwing spaghetti against a wall. We tried anything and everything,” notes Savovici. “But as soon as we put our heads together, it was clear which ideas would take off in a real world market.” In the end, he says, the students are all “really proud of our products.”
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