Course teaches product innovation

This week, while most Yalies sat in libraries around campus, memorizing equations and writing papers in anticipation of final exams, students in the “Creativity and New Product Development” class in the Department of Engineering and Applied Science donned their finest business suits to pitch product ideas for their final projects.

The class was designed by engineering professor Henry Bolanos to give students an overview of the stages of product development and marketing. A prolific inventor himself, Bolanos holds patents for over 110 items and brings invaluable real-world experience to the classroom in a university that often stresses theory over practice.

“I want to pass on what I’ve learned in my career,” Bolanos said.

Engineering teaching assistant Anna Stirgwolt GRD ’10 said she enjoys this particular class because it is creative and attracts a diverse groups of students. She said she thinks the class is valuable for all students, regardless of their academic interests.

“Regardless of what line of work you go into, I think it is important to have an understanding of the business world,” she said.

This semester, students in the course designed products that included a bagel-cutting apparatus and a travel beverage.

“[The students] start with a customer need, conduct a market survey, and then create a product to fill that need,” Bolanos said.

Students were broken up into groups and came up with a problem that they wanted to address within the first week of class, Emily Maher ’06 said. The rest of the semester, she said, was devoted to taking surveys, designing the product and analyzing hypothetical financial costs. For their final projects, students gave presentations to the rest of the class as if they were pitching their product to potential investors. Clad in business suits and ties, they dressed for the part.

Maher was part of the group that designed “The Bagel King,” a tong-like device used to help cut bagels more easily.

Another group designed DeoGo, a portable and disposable deodorant intended to make “freshness on the go” possible. Like the other presentations, the DeoGo presenters began with a short infomercial-like video clip that humorously illustrated why there is a need for their product. They continued to present the details of their product and an analysis of projected finances in a PowerPoint presentation.

Equinox, a travel beverage designed to induce sleep while at the same time combating the negative effects of jet lag and dehydration associated with air travel, was developed by another student group. Students in this group brought in a sample bottle of their melatonin- and vitamin-packed drink, which is also berry-flavored and low-calorie.

Ben Herbert ’06 said the idea for Equinox came from his personal desire to make traveling a more pleasant experience. An economics major, Herbert said the class helped him learn what designing and marketing a product actually entails.

Alison Bloom-Feshbach ’06, a cognitive science major and one of Herbert’s group members, said the class is applicable to the real world.

“Creativity and New Product Development” has been offered for the past nine years, and will be offered again next semester.

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