Helsinki Again! Seidenberg School Launches Year Two of the Product Design Project Research Initiative

Extending last year’s acclaimed partnership with Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, the Seidenberg School is collaborating for a second year in the Product Design Project (PDP) Based at Aalto University, PDP brings together students from more than a dozen universities around the globe to develop real products for companies including Ericsson, UNICEF, ABB and ExerBlast who are searching for innovative cooperation with the next generation of IT experts. At the start, much attention is directed to the formation of highly motivated interdisciplinary teams. A project typically includes all phases of planning, requirements gathering, the creative process, software design, usability and marketing.

Led by Associate Dean Jonathan Hill and Program Manager Wilfredo Pena, Seidenberg Students Drew Cimino (CS ’13), Prachaya Sinsuwan (MS CS ’14), Julie Gauthier (CS ‘15), Michael Cornell (CS ’15), Bryn Haffey (MS CS ’14) and Keith McPherson (CS ’13) were joined by Lubin student Shervin Browne (MBA ’14) and Dyson Communications major Jessie Mishavsky (BA ’13)

Utilizing lessons learned from the concept of distributed teams, the project goes through the phases of  requirements gathering, product design, manufacture, assembly, and testing to create a unique and valuable learning experience. As the sun rises in Australia, students at Swinburne University in Melbourne begin iteration of their specified part of the project, as the day continues at Tianjin University in Shanghai, students continue the process and pass the results to the next stop, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur. The project is then picked up and further developed by students at Aalto University and as the sun moves from Helsinki to New York, Pace University students contribute their day’s work and then conclude their day by passing the baton back to their Australian colleagues. Team meetings are held weekly, via Skype, where students learn to negotiate differences in time, culture and project flow. After a full academic year of designing, coding and building, the international teams gather for a final ‘gala’ presentation in Helsinki where the students celebrate their accomplishments.

“This is truly one of the best educational experiences that I can imagine” said Jonathan Hill. “The students work as a distributed team on a very complex, but ultimately deeply satisfying projects with other top students from around the world. The experiences they have replicate what they will be asked to do as professional developers: ask questions, solve problems, create, get feedback, react to their clients changing needs and learn to negotiate time zones, different cultures and different learning styles”.

“I love my team” said Julie Gauthier, a sophomore computer science major from Connecticut. “I am the developer among mechanical and electrical engineers, designers, and MBA’s. They have been so welcoming and so helpful and I can’t wait to see what we build”.

This year’s collaboration includes the addition of a New York City based start-up which will bring four Aalto students to Pace for a week of on-site research, activities and workshops that support co-creation. Pace University and Exerblast, a digitally enhanced youth exercise and gaming concept, are working together to build new interactive experiences on their website and play space located in Tribeca.   This project will give the students an opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary ideas at the cross point of computer science, engineering production and communications.  Besides working on the project it will also be an opportunity to reciprocate the hospitality they’ve received during their visit to Aalto.  Our visitors will arrive in time to attend a New York Tech Meetup (NYTM) monthly gathering among other events that showcase the thriving tech scene in New York.

If you would like to participate in helping us make this a great experience for our Aalto U guests, stay tuned for information on their arrival.

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