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UB engineering students learn how to develop consumer products

Brookstone engineer Margot Sandy, far right, works with a team of students to develop a new jacket that would heat itself during cold weather. Photo by the Onion Studio.

by Jane Stoyle Welch

Published November 29, 2014

Ever wonder what it would be like to participate in the design of a new consumer product?

“This workshop gave students the chance to walk through the steps involved in designing a product for a consumer marketplace.”
Andrew Olewnik, SEAS experiential learning director

A group of about 20 curious engineering students had the opportunity to find out during the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ first product development workshop.

Under the direction of Margot Sandy, a senior mechanical engineer and practicing product developer from Brookstone, students were introduced to the various steps involved in developing a consumer product or possible product line.

The students were divided into three teams, and with the help of a team leader, brainstormed ideas for products that would be useful in the daily life of a student.

Each team then spent time developing the product concept by putting form and function to their ideas, discussing similar products or ideas already on the market, as well as the materials and production processes needed to manufacture the product.

The products included a portable steam room that students could set up in the shower, “jack it up” which is a jacket with a heating element, and a sleep system that integrates an alarm clock into a pillow.

“The workshop introduced students to the interaction between industrial and engineering design. Students are not typically aware of this type of opportunity in engineering – and this workshop gave them the chance to walk through the steps involved in designing a product for a consumer marketplace,” said Andrew Olewnik, SEAS experiential learning director.

A team led by Andrew Olewnik used colored markers and sticky notes to help define the features of a portable sauna. Photo by the Onion Studio.

Margot Sandy has been working as a product development engineer in the consumer products industry for over six years, and has developed over 80 products. She previously worked at Fisher-Price in East Aurora, New York.

She was invited to UB by Paschalis Alexandridis, UB distinguished professor of chemical and biological engineering, as a result of her participation in Tech Savvy, a yearly event for girls in grades 7-12 held at UB and sponsored by the American Association of University Women.

Olewnik organized the 90-minute workshop, which was targeted for freshmen and sophomore engineering students. In addition to Sandy and Olewnik, Phil Cormier, adjunct professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, also participated as a team leader. Earlier in the day, Ms. Sandy gave an overview of product design to several engineering classes.