Collaborative Student Teams Present Innovative Product Designs to Corporate Sponsors

Five groups of collaborative student teams, made of MBA, industrial design and engineering students, along with industry partners met in The Tuttleman Center Auditorium on April 27 for the final presentation of their academic year-long projects.

Dunmore Corporation, which specializes in coated, laminated and metalized films, sponsored three student projects involving their product lines. Construction Specialties, Inc. (CS) and Philadelphia University’s Institute for the Aging also sponsored projects.

Each assignment asked students to respond to a real-world product challenge currently facing the industry and their client. Students researched and prepared innovative solutions to the challenge and presented their final suggestions in front of executives from Dunmore, CS and Philadelphia University.

“We were very impressed with the students’ creativity and unique perspectives,” said Matthew Sullivan, M’97, president and CEO of Dunmore Corporation. “The way they worked at the challenges presented and talked to people in the industry was outstanding. The designs they come up with were incredible.”

“Today’s problems cannot be solved by educational programs with a narrow disciplinary focus. All elements need to be considered in developing solutions to the complex challenges currently facing businesses,” said Les Sztandera, Ph.D., professor of computer information systems. “These projects are real business opportunities and could also result in immediate commercial potential for the sponsors. Their outcomes will contribute to new educational models that will highlight Philadelphia University’s signature learning approach.”

Student teams working on Dunmore projects separately tackled issues facing three different areas of the company’s business. One team worked on designing solar film models that could be fitted onto solar panels in a way that would make them more aesthetically pleasing for placement on residential homes.

The team – comprised of architectural engineering student Ashley Echols, MBA student Nicole Lemanski, and industrial design students Faye Rice and Jordan Cammarata – designed a customizable, perforated, patterned film to help camouflage solar panels. The perforations allow for the film to allow light to pass though without greatly decreasing the efficiency of the panel. In addition, the team replaced the standard white back sheet with a two-tone clear/white back sheet that allows light to be redirected through the cell. The team substituted the standard aluminum frame with a clear acrylic frame that utilizes Dunmore’s existing non-weatherable film to prevent photodegredation.

Another team developed product ideas for a film used in thermal management, finding creative ways to use the film for solar insulation and reflection.  The third team researched new markets for Dunmore’s line of antimicrobial products used on film surfaces.

“It was great to have the student’s perspectives on these different projects,” said Neil Gillespie, vice president of new business ventures and innovation at Dunmore. “When you spend all of your time working within the industry, you don’t always see things the same way someone from the outside would. The students brought great ideas that we might not have thought of on our own.”

As part of the Dunmore collaboration, students traveled to Berlin, Germany, this spring to present their projects to a group of faculty and students at the Technical University of Berlin. Dunmore Corporation has a site based in Berlin.

In addition to the Dunmore Corporation projects, students worked with Construction Specialties, Inc. (CS), which sponsored a hybrid solar control/hurricane damage protection project. The team researched the sponsor’s manufacturing capabilities and proposed concepts to meet government and industry protection standards. The students’ initial proposals had to respond to critiques from some of the nation’s largest architecture firms.

The resulting system, named Solarshield,  is inspired by CS’s current air foil shaped sunshade to reduce solar heat gain and glare while reducing building utility costs. In the event of a hurricane, the controllable air foil shade deploys over a building’s windows to provide a damage resistant Kevlar barrier to protect the façade and valuable contents of the building. Solarshield’s dynamic façade effectively reduces energy consumption while protecting a building from environmental damage. The team was comprised of industrial design students Carolyn Hannan and Sam Ryan, engineering student Christopher Anderson and MBA student Andrew Forsythe.

Curt Fessler, marketing and product innovation manager at CS, noted how well the teams worked together with company professionals, giving the project interactions a true consultant/client quality. “The students were consummate professionals and we look forward to working with Philadelphia University again in the future,” Fessler said.

Students also created a design and business plan for LifeSpan trans-generational research project, which focused on a new personal product in the form of a highly evolved, lightweight walker.

“These projects are prime examples of the power of collaborative teams to tackle tough problems,” said Mike Leonard, associate professor of industrial design. “These teams worked well as individuals and as groups. And the European exposure will help all team members to see themselves as international professionals.”

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