This page contains examples of the final projects from the 2006 class. The final projects are the product of a series of assignments.
Projects from 2006
All work is courtesy of the students named and used with permission.
Cadillac CTS Door Closer - Eric Bevan, Dean Ljubicic, Pedzi Makumbe, John Park, Curtis Underwood, Jamie Waldinger, Moya Yen (PDF)
ContaInner - Eun-Joung Lee, Christopher Leitz, Billy Lo, Caroline Park, Becky Roberts, Matthew Ward (PDF)
Central to this class is a team-based approach to conceive and design a new product and present a prototype in the final class session. The goal of this exercise is to learn principles and methods of product development, to improve teamwork skills and to appreciate the inherent multidisciplinary nature of product development. Project ideas come from the students in the class. Guidelines for reasonable projects are given below. The project proposal process is explained in the assignments section.
In the second week of the course, we will form project teams on the basis of expressed student preferences. Teams will consist of about seven students. Once you are assigned to a project team, we expect you to stay in the course for the entire term.
Project Materials and Expenses
Each team will be allocated a budget of $1,000. Under no circumstances will we reimburse for expenses above $1,000. If your project requires additional expenditures, your team is expected to cover these expenses personally. Also, please note that MIT will not reimburse teams for sales tax.
Intellectual Property Rights
The student teams will generally be able to retain the rights to any inventions they develop in this course. If a team should decide to pursue a patent, they may do this on their own. Alternatively, the team can "share" their invention with MIT, which may be interested in patenting it, in exchange for a portion of any licensing royalties. Teams should spend some time during an early meeting agreeing in advance on how to distribute any economic rewards arising from the intellectual property you create. Your project assignments will serve as a dated record of the evolution of your ideas.
While special cases will be considered, you are strongly encouraged to choose a project satisfying all of the following constraints:
- There should be a demonstrable market for the product. One good way to verify a market need is to identify existing products that attempt to meet the need. Your product need not be a variant of an existing product, but the market need addressed by your product should be clearly evident. The product does not need to have a tremendous economic potential, but should at least be an attractive opportunity for an established firm with related products and/or skills.
- Most products developed in this class are material goods and not services. While many of the ideas in the course apply to services and software products (for example, customer needs and product architecture), many do not (for example, design for manufacturing). Nevertheless, the faculty are willing to hear project proposals from students interested in developing software, services, and internet-based enterprises.
- The product should have a high likelihood of containing fewer than 10 parts. Although you cannot anticipate the design details, it is easy to anticipate that an electric drill will have more than 10 parts and that a garlic press can have fewer than 10.
- You should be confident of being able to prototype the product for less than $1000. For example, a razor like Gillette's Mach3 may have about 10 parts, but would require tens of thousands of dollars to create a functional prototype.
- The product should require no basic technological breakthroughs. (Yes, a more compact airbag would be a nice, but can you do it without inventing a new chemical?) You do not have time to deal with large technological uncertainties.
- You should have access to more than five potential users of the product (more than 20 would be nice). For example, you would have great difficulty researching agricultural irrigation systems without leaving Cambridge.
A Few More Hints
- Save any highly proprietary ideas for another context; we will be quite open in discussing the projects in class and do not wish to be constrained by proprietary information.
- Most successful projects tend to have at least one team member with strong personal interest in the target market.
- It is really nice to have a connection to a commercial venture that may be interested in the product. (One group signed a licensing agreement with a major mail order and retail company with which they had made contact during the first week of the course. The product they developed became a commercial success.)
- Most products are really not very well designed. This is evidenced by the seemingly poor quality of common consumer products (utility knives, garlic presses, and ice cream scoops, for example). The experience in this class is that if you pick almost any product satisfying the above project guidelines, you will be able to develop a product that is superior to everything currently on the market. A book titled The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman (Doubleday, 1990) discusses good and bad examples and provides principles and guidelines for good design.
- Just because you have used a lousy product doesn't mean that a better one doesn't exist. Dosome thorough research to identify competitive products and solutions.
- An overview of some previous class projects is available in the assignments section.