Students Design Innovative Wearable Tech

April 11, 2017

Ann Arbor, MI - University of Michigan Art & Design, Business, Engineering, and Information students in this year's popular Integrated Product Development course created innovative wearable tech products that promote safety, convenience, and personal well being.

Six cross-disciplinary student teams built fully functional brand new products, working through the process of market research, concept generation, technical development, production process design, pricing, inventory stocking, and marketing - all within a single semester. Products ranged from the aro navigation wristband that allows bicyclists to keep their eyes on the road while increasing their visibility, to the cocoon sleep mask that uses soothing sounds to shut out chaos and awakens wearers with a simulated sunrise.

View marketing websites for all six wearable tech products. 

The teams first pitched their products online, then adjusted pricing to market remaining inventory at the 2017 IPD Trade Show. Tech enthusiasts from throughout the Michigan community gathered at the new Stamps Gallery in Downtown Ann Arbor to test out prototypes and vote for the products they would most like to purchase. For students, it was an exhilarating free market culmination to a whirlwind of production.  "Building a new product and business from scratch in just 12 weeks is daunting but the high expectations pushed us beyond our frontier of possibility," said MBA student and aro team member Jon Garrison, "Much like a GPS system, we set a goal and then continually updated our route after each wrong turn."

Parrish Hanna, Global Director of Interaction & Ergonomics for Ford Motor Company, was impressed by the real world feel of the action learning program. "In a parallel universe in Silicon Valley," he said, "the students of the IPD program are a group of tinkers, business modelers, marketers, analysts and story tellers that have a great idea and are chasing their next round of funding.... the students are learning by doing - defining a business opportunity, developing and testing Beta prototypes, sourcing parts, examining manufacturing methods, designing a brand and more. And like the professional world, they are all the while project managing a cross-disciplinary team to the next milestone."

Master of Industrial and Operations Engineering student Vikalp Aggarwal's team developed SOSafe, an inconspicuous wearable device that interacts with your phone and location to alert your friends when you are in an unsafe situation. The technical challenges of building their prototype were numerous, but Aggarwal also remarked on the value of learning about team dynamics. "Working in teams is a much underrated skill," he said, "and it can be improved greatly by working on semester long projects with high stakes on every team member."

Aggarwal's teammate, Art & Design student Madeline Helland agreed. "Each role is important and has its time," she observed, "Communication and keeping an open mind is the only way decisions and deliverables will be reached, especially when having people from a variety of backgrounds."

The 2017 Integrated Product Development course was team taught by Eric Svaan of the Ross School of Business and Stephanie Tharp of the Stamps School of Art & Design, and organized by the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan.

Specific results can be viewed here.
View photos from On-Campus Trade Show
Click for past IPD Trade Shows

About Tauber Institute for Global Operations

The Tauber Institute for Global Operations is a joint venture between the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering, and 30 industry partners to facilitate cross-disciplinary education in global operations management. In addition to a broad array of core and elective courses, the innovative LeadershipAdvantage Program provides students with the tools to ascend to major operations leadership roles. Well-designed and managed team projects form the cornerstone of the Tauber Institute experience and allow students to apply their knowledge to real world settings. The students, with faculty support, work at a company site to address substantive operations, supply chain and/or manufacturing challenges. These teams are exceptionally successful at solving problems that benefit company sponsors, operationally and strategically.

In 2016, Tauber faculty advised students on 32 high-visibility projects in the areas of supply chain/lean optimization, process analysis/improvement, and strategic assessments at 23 companies, averaging $14.4 million/per project savings over 3 years. The total savings projected was $460 million. Visit to learn more.

Theresa Ceccarelli, 734-647-0308,