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‘Idea Showcase’ a Product-ive Experience for Business Students

New Product Development Class Gets a Pitching Lesson

A man in a vest explains his project to a group of students standing around a table Photo by Ed Brennen
Senior business major Ishmael Harvey, second from right, explains his Overwatch AI team's vehicle security system to fellow students during the semester-ending Idea Showcase at Alumni Hall.

By Ed Brennen

A car security system that locks a would-be thief inside the vehicle until police arrive. An educational program to help students develop personal finance skills. A consulting group that assists restaurants struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those were among the 11 group projects that students in Asst. Prof. Denise Dunlap’s New Product Development course presented during a semester-ending “Idea Showcase” at Alumni Hall last month.

Dunlap, a member of the Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Innovation department, researches new product innovation and frequently attends product pitches. She says she added the showcase to her course this year to give students experience with pitching their ideas to audiences that are outside their area of expertise.

“I’ve seen extremely good ideas not get selected because teams failed to know how to pitch them to a broader audience,” says Dunlap, who invited faculty and staff from the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, along with members of the UML community at large, to attend the showcase and vote for their favorite project.

Five students, four women and a man, pose for a photo with their USuccess project board Photo by Ed Brennen
USuccess team members, from left, Anna Kouadio, Nyna Pendkar, Kyle Knapp, Kaitlyn Catron and Mikaela Murphy were the top vote-getters at the Idea Showcase.

Students from the Manning School of Business brainstormed new product ideas for industries ranging from hospitality and entertainment to energy and the environment. They then developed their ideas by doing industry and competitive analysis, concept testing, product use testing, financial analysis, market testing and strategic market entry planning. 

USuccess, an educational program to help college and high school students develop lifelong personal finance skills, was the top vote-getter. According to Dunlap, the team of Nyna Pendkar, Anna Kouadio, Kyle Knapp, Kaityln Catron, Cledir Mendes and Mikaela Murphy will continue to develop their idea through the DifferenceMaker program.

Kouadio, a junior business major with concentrations in marketing and management, says being back in the classroom last fall after more than a year of remote learning helped make the group project “the best I’ve ever had” in college.

“Being able to collaborate with people, to see their faces and listen to them, was a nice change,” Kouadio says. “We took time to not just dive into the project, but also to get to know each other.”

Overwatch AI, a vehicle security system that disables a car’s starter and locks the doors and windows if it’s unable to confirm the driver’s biometrics, finished second. The team included Ishmael Harvey, David Bel, Zack Boon, Cam Eldridge, Dante Giachello and Zach Zeyher.
A male student in an orange shirt and face covering explains his project to a woman Photo by Ed Brennen
A student pitches his team's SolarCell project to DifferenceMaker Director Holly Lalos at the Idea Showcase.

“We get to utilize what we’re learning in class to create something that everyone can get behind,” says Harvey, a senior with a concentration in management who came up with the idea for the system after his uncle’s vintage Mercedes was stolen. He hopes to continue pursuing the idea with automakers.

“All the technology for the idea exists, but no one has put it together,” he says.

The team of Fernanda Moreira, Caitlyn Lydon, Ryan Beaulieu, Adrien Dills, Liam Andrews and Tommy Jordan placed third for OneWallet, a product that would hold a person’s money, identification and car key.

Members of the top three teams each received Amazon gift cards, courtesy of Dean Sandra Richtermeyer's office.

“It’s been a great experience,” says senior marketing student Celeste Leahy, whose team came up with Casper Kitchen, a consulting group to help restaurants that are struggling because of the pandemic to set up “ghost kitchens,” which are restaurants that can be found on delivery apps but don’t offer in-person dining. “We’ve learned a lot about how much goes into creating something from scratch.”