Turner Center Manages Innovation Based Projects

By Ken Klotz, Director,
Turner Center for Entrepreneurship - Programs 

For students seeking that first job after graduation, the most feared type of interview question begins with “Tell me about a time when…”, requiring them to discuss an actual experience, not a hypothetical one. For certain Bradley business and engineering students, the answer has become easier through their participation in the newest form of capstone project available- the business and engineering convergence project. Turner Center staff and engineering faculty jointly manage the students involved in the projects.

The convergence projects pair four business majors with four engineering majors to work their entire senior year in a collaborative manner with a client company trying to develop and commercialize an innovative product, component, or process.  This real-world experience is intended to mirror the innovation development process used in industry today. Collaborative projects utilizing students from different colleges are rarely done by universities, thus providing Bradley graduates a way to differentiate themselves from graduates at other universities.

One of the primary goals of the convergence projects is cross-disciplinary learning. The business students learn about basic engineering design processes and challenges, and the engineering students learn how to use customer-expressed needs in the design of product features.  Together they learn from each other.

While each project evolves in a unique way, common deliverables of each project will include:

  • Comprehensive industry analysis to identify demand and competitive drivers related to the innovation.
  • Design of a new product, component, improvement, or process, including material selection, prototype development, mathematical modeling, and finite element analysis.
  • Comprehensive analysis of key competitors, and barriers to entry of new competitors.  Included will be competitor business models, pricing strategies, and strengths/weaknesses.
  • Identification of the most viable markets, estimated size of recommended market segments, and profile of the typical customer.
  • “Voice of customer” interviews conducted to solidify desired product features and benefits sought by target markets.
  • Development of a reliable and repeatable business model for commercializing the innovation.
  • Supply chain implications related to the innovation.
  • Return on investment calculations when implementing the innovation or process.

Projects can come from almost any industry.  Past project topics include:

  • lawn sprinkler controlled by a smartphone application;
  • radiant heater for commercial buildings;
  • photovoltaic solar power solutions for remote regions;
  • hemodialysis catheter design;
  • medical procedure training simulator

Bradley University and the Turner Center are firmly committed to providing our students with an experiential based education.  The convergence projects enhance classroom learning and provide students with ready answers when asked “Tell me about a time when….”