Students create tech products to help preteens learn healthy habits

April 26, 2019

Ann Arbor, MI - Can a new technology product actually help preteens learn healthy habits? Six University of Michigan student teams took up the challenge to design, build, and market brand new products to help preteens flourish in an increasingly tech-filled environment.

The popular Integrated Product Development (IPD) course hosted by the Tauber Institute for Global Operations exposes students from the Michigan Ross School of Business, College of Engineering, School of Information, and Stamps School of Art & Design to the real-word process of creating new products to meet consumer needs. The course is distinguished by hands-on manufacture of customer-ready prototypes executed by cross-disciplinary teams of students in a simulated economic competition. Students compete not only against benchmark products, but also against each other for bragging rights and market share. Successful teams must excel in product design, engineering, manufacturing, and marketing.

Current co-teachers Eric Svaan of the Ross School of Business and Stephanie Tharp of the Stamps School of Art and Design continue to reinvent the IPD course, receiving a Teaching Innovation Prize this year for adding an intensive "Hacking Health" charrette to launch their students into the creative process. Tharp & Svaan's design and business collaboration continues the legacy of the course, which first won a Teaching Innovation Prize in 2009.

The 2019 Winter semester IPD competition challenge was to design a product suitable for use by pre-adolescent children, incorporating the use of active technology, to improve health maintenance and outcomes. The design process began with the "Hacking Health" charrette where students explored ideas with preteens and their parents, as well as experts in child psychology and development, to determine the needs of their target demographic and to spark the creative process. The IPD course final result: six fun tech products that improve inter-family communication, promote uninterrupted sleep, foster independence, improve nutrition, increase hydration, and help preteens set and achieve goals.

This semester student teams were also vying for the Murphy Prize, an annual award of $5000 in scholarship funds established in memory of Michigan alumna Sarah S. Murphy. A panel of industry experts selected the winning team based on which team's business plan best met the assigned criteria, brought something new to the field, and had the greatest chance of commercialization. The judges selected Team "Groovie" as the inaugural recipients in part for their exceptional outreach efforts during their product development process. The team worked directly with preteens through classroom visits while creating a wearable goal setting device that uses avatars to help motivate kids to reach their next milestone.

"There was a kid who had an idea called 'Timmy' that was made out of pipe cleaners" Groovie product manager Jinny Han (MBA '19) recalled, "and his idea was that Timmy would do whatever you were doing, he would grow when you grew. So we took a little bit of that idea into Groovie; Groovie grows and evolves as you achieve your goals. And as we took our ideas back into the classroom, their input was how we decided on our ultimate product."

The student teams launched their products in a both a web-based competition and in a physical trade show held at the Tauber Colloquium in the Ross School of Business. Members of the University of Michigan community examined the new products, interacted with the student designers, and selected their favorite items by “purchasing” them with virtual dollars.

Co-instructors Eric Svaan and Stephanie Tharp then calculated IPD Trade Show winners in multiple categories, including number of products sold, online versus in-person sales, and greatest profit.

The Winter 2019 IPD Student-Designed Products:
Groovie - a personal development product that promotes a goal-setting mindset by empowering kids to create and maintain goals.
HydroPal - a smart water bottle cap with a companion mobile application that helps kids track hydration, engage in a build-your-own fish tank game, and interact with peers.
IGIYG - 'I'll Go If You Go' provides families a space to use storytelling to learn about each other and reconnect.
Stochen - an interactive personal nutrition planner.
SweetDreams - for children who have trouble letting go of their phone, a phone box that helps children moderate technology use and form good sleeping habits.
Voco - a cellular and wifi-enabled smart watch designed for children that allows constant connection with caregivers without the distractions of a smartphone.

Winter 2019 IPD Trade Show results

View IPD product videos on YouTube

Browse the IPD Trade Show photo gallery

More information about the IPD course

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, working with 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 LeadershipAdvantageSM 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.