Michigan Ross MBA Students Present Products Aimed at Improving the Lives of Senior Citizens at the Tauber Institute’s IPD Trade Show
This fall, Full-Time MBA students from the Ross School of Business as well as graduate students from across the University of Michigan gained hands-on experience in product development during the popular Integrated Product Development course.
Their challenge: build creative products to help seniors age comfortably in their homes and better manage pandemic conditions.
The IPD course brought U-M students from Michigan Ross, the College of Engineering, Stamps School of Art & Design, and School of Information to work together to design, build, and market new products, and then present their working products to consumers at the IPD Trade Show, hosted by the Tauber Institute for Global Operations. The course is taught jointly by faculty members Eric Svaan of Michigan Ross and Stephanie Tharp of the Stamps School and celebrated its 29th offering this fall.
Michigan Ross students Claire Covner, MBA ’22; Gilbert Pasquale, MBA ’22; and Jack Simmons, MBA/MSE ’22, shared about their experiences in the IPD course and trade shows.
Gaining hands-on product development experience, working in multidisciplinary teams
The Michigan Ross MBA students said that learning the process to make a successful product was one of the most valuable aspects of their experience in the course.
“My biggest takeaway from the course was learning that a successful product needs to directly address a need,” said Simmons. “That need can be small, like reading a restaurant menu, or big, like not being able to get out of a chair. Regardless of how cool your idea is, if it’s not needed, it won’t be successful.”
Likewise, Covner described how valuable it is learning what goes on behind the scenes to bring a product to life. “My biggest takeaway was the importance of iteration, and how iterating almost every step of the way is important to refining a product and really ensuring it's meeting customer needs,” she said.
The students said working in multidisciplinary teams — and tapping into the expertise of their peers with backgrounds in design, engineering, and information — was extremely beneficial to their success and is something they plan to take with them throughout their careers.
“I really enjoyed working with students from other schools,” said Pasquale. “While Michigan Ross does stress the diversity of its class, it is important for Ross students to get experience working with students from the other schools at the University of Michigan.”
In addition, Covner emphasized the importance of the course’s multidisciplinary focus on preparing her for her future career.
“No matter where I go in my career, I know that I'll be working cross-functionally and with those from different backgrounds and with diverse experiences and skill sets,” she said. “IPD provided me with an additional experience where I had the opportunity to work in a diverse team.”
Beyond the opportunity to work on multidisciplinary teams, the students shared a variety of other ways the IPD experience contributed to their MBA journey and post-graduation career goals.
“I am hoping to join a more startup-like environment after completing my degree,” said Pasquale. “I suspect that the self-starter mindset will be crucial, and that's something that IPD cultivates. If there's a task that needs to be done, it's up to you, or it just won't get done.
Simmons, who is completing a dual degree in business and engineering, said the course provided an opportunity to combine all of her career interests while being able to work with a diverse group of people. “Everyone had a tangible impact on the whole process, including the final product, and we are all proud of what we built,” she shared.
Support from Michigan Ross fuels success for students
Covner, Pasquale, and Simmons all felt well prepared for their IPD course with the knowledge they acquired from their well-rounded Ross MBA core curriculum and with the guidance of Tauber faculty members.
“I would say that Michigan Ross prepared me to really work effectively in a team and create structure where it might have been lacking to move the team forward,” said Covner. “Even though I've primarily worked in teams exclusively made up of Ross MBA students, Ross helped prepare me to work with people from different backgrounds and with varying skill sets to figure out how we could best work together using each team member's strengths.”
Similarly, Pasquale shared that the Michigan Ross core curriculum provided him a great base for the course because each team acted like a small business. “Each team created a marketing plan, brainstormed product market fit, and decided how much inventory to ‘produce’ and ‘hold.’ These are all concepts covered in the core courses at Michigan Ross,” he said.
The MBAs also credited much of their success to the opportunities and support provided by the Michigan Ross community.
“Eric Svaan and the whole Tauber staff were very helpful,” said Simmons. “The interdisciplinary teams gave us access to other resources on campus and more diverse brainstorming ideas.”
Advice to students interested in the IPD course (or any product development venture)
The 2021 IPD Trade Show projects and teams:
Gru is a smart indoor gardening system that allows you to bring the wonders of the outdoors inside, but without the mess. Team members were Dean Golan, MSE ’21; Olivia Graham, MFA ’22; Maura McInerney-Rowley, MBA ’22; Neelay Patel, MSE ’22; and Jackie Whittaker, MBA ‘‘22.
KoaZzy is a product that helps you make your bed without the discomfort of hunching over and struggling with your hands. Team members were Whitney Brooks, BFA ’22; Konstantinos Chiotinis, MBA ’22; Madelynn McCahill, MSE ’22; Tomas Vonderheide, MSE ’22; and Amy Ribar, MBA ’22.
Life Goes On
Life Goes On is a board game to help others explore unique opportunities to pursue later in life and to bring attention to the most commonly overlooked risks in retirement to encourage preparedness. Team members were Anna Gray, MBA ’22; Leen Habbal, MS ’22; Jennifer Moya, BA ’22; Ryan Skorka, MSE ’21; and Thomas Wu, BFA ’23.
Mi View is a stylish and portable magnification product that can be attached to your phone to help the problem of declining vision. Team members were Breanna Boersma, BFA ’21; Aaron Kaplan, MBA ’22; Jack Simmons, MBA/ME ’22; and Michelle Wang, MSE ’21.
Pages Through Time
Pages Through Time is a product that helps keep your memories alive by allowing users to submit photographs and recordings that a dedicated design team will use to create custom story books with illustrations. Team members were Claire Covner, MBA ’22; Sydney Lundin, BFA ’22; Santhosh Narayanan, MSE ’22; Andrew Tebeau, BA ’22; Christina Weiberg, MBA ’22; and Yuan Wu, MS ’23.
Uplift is a chair that makes it easier to sit and stand, and was designed for individuals who need strength and mobility support. Team members were Shreya Agrawal, MS ’21; Dallin Deem, BA ’22; Rhea Mehra, MS ’22; Felice Mueller, MBA ’22; Gilbert Pasquale, MBA ’22; and Caroline White, BFA ’22.
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