15.783J | Spring 2006 | Graduate
Product Design and Development


This page contains both a set of sample assignments from the class as well as the assignment guidelines. These assignments culminate in a final project, examples of which can be seen in the projects section.

Sample Assignments

Sample Assignments from Previous Semesters

All sample assignments are courtesy of the students named and used with permission.

Sample Assignment 1 - Design Project Proposal I (PDF)

Sample Assignment 1 - Design Project Proposal II (PDF)

Sample Assignment 1 - Design Project Proposal III (PDF)

Sample Assignment 1 - Design Project Proposal IV (PDF)

Sample Assignment 2 - Lane Ballard, Tom Burns, John Celmins, Paul Glomski, Amber Mazooji, Minja Penttila, Chris Piscitelli, Tomer Posner (PDF)

Sample Assignment 3 - Lane Ballard, Tom Burns, John Celmins, Paul Glomski, Amber Mazooji, Minja Penttila, Chris Piscitelli, Tomer Posner (PDF - 1.2MB)

Sample Assignment 4 - Lane Ballard, Tom Burns, John Celmins, Paul Glomski, Amber Mazooji, Minja Penttila, Chris Piscitelli, Tomer Posner (PDF)

Sample Assignment 5 - Lane Ballard, Tom Burns, John Celmins, Paul Glomski, Amber Mazooji, Minja Penttila, Chris Piscitelli, Tomer Posner (PDF)

Sample Assignment 6 - Lane Ballard, Tom Burns, John Celmins, Paul Glomski, Amber Mazooji, Minja Penttila, Chris Piscitelli, Tomer Posner (PDF - 3.3MB)

Sample Assignment 7 - Lane Ballard, Tom Burns, John Celmins, Paul Glomski, Amber Mazooji, Minja Penttila, Chris Piscitelli, Tomer Posner (PDF)

Assignment Guidelines

Assignment 1: Project Proposal

Assignment 1 is the only individual assignment for this class. Only students that complete this assignment will be allowed to stay enrolled in this class. Please refer also to the Guidelines for Projects in the projects section, to assist you with both, identifying appropriate project proposals and selecting among the proposed projects. Exercises 2 and 3 in chapter 4 of the textbook can also serve as a starting point for project proposals.

Assignment 1a: Proposal Handout

Prepare a project proposal in any format that fits on one 8.5x11 page (one side only). Sample proposals from previous classes are available above. We will photocopy the proposals and distribute them in Ses #3. Proposals should include:

  • A brief, descriptive project title (2-4 words). This is critical!
  • The 3 nearest competitors (existing solutions) and price.
  • Your name, phone number, email, department/degree program, and year.
  • A description of the product opportunity you have identified. Your description may include any of the following: Documentation of the market need, shortcomings of existing competitive products, and definition of the target market and its size.
  • Please do not present any of your own product ideas or solutions at this point; our strict focus in this phase of the course is on the market opportunity and not on solution concepts.

Assignment 1b: Proposal Presentation

Prepare a 50-second presentation to be delivered in class. Your presentation should include:

  • A verbal or visual demonstration of the product opportunity you have described in your proposal. Given that the audience will be able to read your proposal at their leisure, you might spend your time explaining the richness of the market opportunity and demonstrating the existing competitive products.
  • Convincing arguments why your classmates should vote for your product proposal.
  • Any special skills or assets you have (marketing expertise, access to a shop, materials, electronics wizardry, etc.)

Showing one or two overhead slides is recommended. You may also use video. However, note that the 50-second time constraint will be ruthlessly enforced. A low tech approach is therefore typically more efficient.

Assignment 1c: Project Preferences

Submit your project preferences on a project selection card. List the ten projects you would most like to work on, in order of preference. If you would like to work with a particular group of classmates (up to 4), you should all list the exact same project preferences and clip your cards together. We will assign the rest of the team. Team and project assignments will be sent by email to the class no later than the next week. You are not required to select your own project proposal. However, if your proposal is selected, you will only be assigned to it if you have listed it with a high enough preference.

Team Assignments

With the exception of Assignment 8, all team assignments must be handed in at the beginning of the class session in which they are due. Assignment 8 does not require the submission of any written material; instead the teams will show their α-prototype to their advisors. The assignments are intended to pace the development process for your product. Since there is virtually no slack in this schedule the assignments must be completed on or before the scheduled due date in order to maintain the project schedule. All, but the first assignment, are to be completed as a team.

Guidelines for Team Assignments

Please adhere to the following guidelines for your team assignments:

  • Be concise. Most assignments can be completed in very few pages. One exception to this guideline is concept sketches, which should be formatted with one concept per page.
  • Please provide a short (less than one page) description of the process your group adopted in completing the assignment. However, there is no need to repeat a summary of the textbook if you adopt the exact approach in the text. In particular, please comment on what worked well and what did not.
  • Combine all your work in one Microsoft® PowerPoint® file. (Occasionally, we will ask teams to give ad hoc presentations of their homework to exhibit best practices and pitfalls).
  • Hand in three copies for your team so that the course faculty can provide comments. Keep a copy for your records.

Assignment 2: Mission Statement and Customer Needs List

  • Describe your team’s processes for getting organized and for identifying customer needs. Comment on this process and on your results.
  • Write a mission statement for your project team as described in chapter 3. From now on, please include your mission statement on all remaining assignments. If you have decided to change your mission statement, please indicate so and explain your reasoning.
  • Develop an organized list of customer needs for your product as described in chapter 4.
  • Also hand in a copy of the original project proposal from Ses #3, even if you have already modified the description of this opportunity in your team’s mission.
  • You do not need to have completed an importance survey by this time, although if you feel the need to further understand preferences and tradeoffs, you should do this soon and turn it in for review.

Assignment 3: Concept Sketches, Target Specifications and Patent Review

  • Describe some of the steps of your concept generation and target specifications processes. Comment on the process and the results.
  • Hand in sketches and bullet-point descriptions of 10 to 20 alternative concepts for your product. For each sketch, note which of the important customer needs it addresses and which it does not.
  • Choose a few (perhaps 3 or 4) critical customer needs from your list. For these critical few, prepare a list of the target specifications and provide documentation to support these decisions.
  • Perform a preliminary patent review searching on United States Patent and Trademark Office for any prior art and related ideas. Briefly describe the 3 closest matches and attach appropriate material from the Web site.

Assignment 4: Preliminary Concept Selection and Schedule

  • Hand in sketches of the two or three concepts you believe are most promising.
  • Show the concept selection matrix (screening or scoring) that you used to make these choices. Include a simple description or sketch of each of the concept alternatives considered.
  • Prepare a list of the key uncertainties or questions you still need to address to determine the viability of your product. For each one, specify an associated plan of action (such as analysis, mock ups, interviews, experiments, etc.).
  • Draft a schedule in Gantt-chart form (see p. 335 of the text) showing the plan of work to complete the project over the next two months. Include at least the following activities: detail design, materials and components selection, vendor selection, procurement of materials and components, testing, and completion of assignments.
  • Describe your team’s process. Comment on the process and the results.

Assignment 5: Review: Final Concept and Model

  • For the Faculty Project Consulting in Ses #13, bring in and discuss some form of proof of concept to demonstrate that you will be able to overcome your key challenges.
  • Prepare a 15-minute presentation of your (single) selected product concept. The presentation should include a review of your mission statement, customer needs, selected concept, and your key target specifications.
  • As part of your presentation, demonstrate some form of “proof-of-concept” prototype model.
  • Hand in a one-page description and sketch of your selected concept.
  • Describe your team’s process. Comment on the process and the results.

Assignment 6: Drawings, Plans, and Revised Schedule

  • Prepare an assembly drawing of the alpha prototype you intend to build. An assembly drawing shows all the parts in their assembled positions.
  • Prepare dimensioned sketches of each piece part for your planned prototype. Include documentation showing how you arrived at critical dimensions (a stress calculation may be needed, for example).
  • Include a bill of materials indicating whether the prototype parts will be purchased or fabricated, and a description of the assembly process. Indicate the material and fabrication process you have selected for each prototype part.
  • Provide photocopies of the vendor specification sheets for the purchased materials and components. On catalog pages, identify which items you have selected for purchase.
  • List the Web resources and vendors you have found to be helpful.
  • Make a drawing or sketch of the production version of the product. Describe the differences between the prototype you will build and the production product. Briefly explain how the production product would be manufactured.
  • Summarize the important decisions you have made since the previous assignment. Describe your prototyping plans. By this time, you should have price quotes and should be ready to place orders for any parts to be fabricated or purchased.
  • Revise the schedule of your project work for the remaining weeks. Include your planned design work, vendor interactions, prototyping, testing, redesign, photography, and preparation of the presentation.
  • Describe your team’s process. Comment on the process and the results.

Assignment 7: Financial Model

  • Prepare a financial model. Explain the scenario you are analyzing (startup activity, established manufacturer, etc.). Document the assumptions you have made in the analysis. Note that you will require estimates for the production tooling and variable costs.
  • Perform a sensitivity analysis of the key financial uncertainties you face.
  • Describe your team’s process, including a brief status report on your prototyping and testing progress.

Assignment 8: Alpha Prototype

  • You should be testing your product prototype by this time. Show your prototype hardware to your team advisor and faculty during the Faculty Project Consulting. No report is to be turned in this week.

Assignment 9: Final Presentation and Demonstration

  • Prepare a 20-minute presentation describing and demonstrating your product. Your presentation should concentrate on the product itself, although you may wish to emphasize any particularly impressive portions of your development process. An effective presentation includes color photographs or video presentation along with a live display of the hardware. This presentation should be of the quality you would make to convince a top management group to purchase the rights to your product or to fund its final development and launch. A panel of experts will observe your presentations and evaluate the products. Be prepared to answer questions about all aspects of your project.
  • Create and demonstrate a Web page designed to promote your product (optional).
  • Turn in a copy of the (slide) presentation (and files for the optional Web page).
  • Turn in several high-quality digital photos of the prototype hardware. Be sure to include photos of the product in use.

Team Surveys

In the middle and at the end of the semester, each student must fill out a survey of his or her team and its members. The purpose of the evaluations is threefold. First, they help teams spot unbefitting team dynamics early on and take corresponding corrective action. Second, they present an opportunity to provide and receive individual feedback and determine personal strength and growth opportunities. Third, they are part of a long term study on the effectiveness on product development teams.