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Trans-Campus Entrepreneurship Class Helps Students Create Products of Tomorrow

LMU Otis Class

One needn’t visit the Magic Kingdom and tour Tomorrow Land to catch a glimpse of what the future may hold, because the future is already here at LMU. About a year ago, Professor David Choi had an idea: What would happen if he combined entrepreneurship students from LMU’s College of Business Administration and students from OTIS College of Art and Design? Choi decided to find out and approached Steve McAdam, Chair of OTIS’ Product Design Department. Choi and McAdam initiated the inaugural ‘New Product Design and Development’ class, which aimed to expose students from both colleges to other disciplines and help them develop better products.

For six weeks, LMU students studied product design skills with OTIS instructors while OTIS students learned about business and finance with Choi at LMU. Midway through the term, students joined forces in high performance teams to create not only business plans but also prototypes of marketable, working products.

"I wanted students to understand a different point of view, to gain a well-rounded and realistic experience," Choi said. "This was a very difficult class to teach but the students have created exceptional work. We couldn’t have come up with these innovative businesses without the creativity that only comes from diverse talents working together."

The fruits of the students’ work were displayed on the final day of class, attended by OTIS’ President and Provost as well as a number of LMU professors, including Fred Kiesner, Chair of LMU’s Hilton Center for Entrepreneurship. The eight products that were introduced in the Final Presentation included: a new generation mobility scooter; home energy management system; filtered touch-less water fountain; sustainable city biking system; voice-activated GPS system within motorcycle helmets; hand-held personal shopping device; specialty solar panels for yards; and a configurable board game. While several students said it may take some time, they plan to continue working on their products and definitely see them in the future marketplace.

For many students, this was an unusual and somewhat uncomfortable learning experience. Students learned how to be part of an interdisciplinary team and spent hundreds of hours researching, writing and designing what they hope will become a worthwhile product in tomorrow’s marketplace. It was an eye-opening experience as few students from either school had previously been exposed to ways of thinking about product development outside their own fields of study.

"It’s been nice getting to see the other side of product development," said Andrew Beck, a senior at LMU. "I’m always so focused on business plans that I never even noticed how everything else is formulated. This project has allowed me to really play a working role and to make my product marketable. Now I understand that it’s not just a great idea but a great design that makes a product whole."

Michael Barber, another LMU senior, agreed with Beck. Working with designers was a new experience which opened his eyes about the process involved in first conceiving of an idea to developing a prototype and seeing a final product on the shelves.

"This class taught me that there are lots of different issues that you must struggle with in the real world," he said. "There’s a different side to business that I’d never encountered before but when you put together the models and research, you create an actual working product. It’s incredibly rewarding."