Four teams of undergraduate students from across the University of Michigan were tasked to create a technology-connected product to enable more satisfying use of small spaces — then convince real consumers in a simulated marketplace to buy it.
The timely challenge was part of the Integrated Product Development course, an experiential, cross-disciplinary course that puts teams of U-M students from the Ross School of Business, Stamps School of Art & Design, College of Engineering, and School of Information in a product development competition. This was the first year that the course was offered to undergraduates.
The course is sponsored by the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at U-M and is taught jointly by Eric Svaan, lecturer of technology and operations at Michigan Ross, and Stephanie Tharp, associate professor at the Stamps School of Art & Design.
“We were impressed by the work that (the students) did,” said Svaan. “They were bright, willing to work hard, and enthusiastic. Our industry-based design review panelists told us that the teams were doing work that compared favorably from what we have seen in previous terms, where most of the students were in graduate school.”
This year, the students developed, designed, built, and marketed a brand-new product profitable at a cost of less than $200 for the Integrated Product Development Trade Show. Students created products that not only made efficient use of limited space, but also promoted the well-being of users who might now be confined to their homes. Products included a portable lamp (Khamai), an ergo desk (Ergo), a "diffuser and sand haven" (ATMOS), and a tactile board (MOOD).
From April 15-21, the student team’s products went head-to-head in an online marketplace where real consumers with a virtual budget of $200 could explore product websites and select the items they wished to "buy" with their virtual money. After the purchasing results of nearly 900 consumers were tabulated, the Ergo desk led the pack in units sold, while the ATMOS diffuser generated the greatest profit.
Sirisha Billa, BBA ’20, was a member of the ATMOS team, along with Michael Rigney, BS ’20; Katie Forrest, BS ’21; Frank Shen, BS ’22; Daisy Hall, BS ’20; and Orville Mo-he, BA ’20.
Billa said her favorite part of the competition was being able to harness her team’s diverse, interdisciplinary skill sets to create a product they would not have been able to create on their own.
“I really enjoyed being able to stretch my creativity and empathy muscles,” she explained. “I was able to use everything I learned at Ross in a shining culminating experience, showing me that what I'd learned was, without a doubt, useful.”
In particular, Billa said she was able to use the skills taught in accounting and technology and operations courses at Ross in the IPD course, in addition to several frameworks taught in Marcus Collin’s marketing course to develop the go-to-market strategy and business model for ATMOS.
“IPD helped me practice applying the different lenses I'd learned at Ross to analyze a volatile business environment because no one tells you which framework to apply here; you get to decide for yourself, using all the tools at your disposal. That's what makes this class hard, but also fun and real,” she said.