Nogales began the iterative design process with his students during the first half of the semester by having students conduct research, brainstorm ideas, sketch potential designs and create 3D models. The second half of the semester involved the fabrication of prototypes that were capable of testing their best concepts.

“The idea is to get a quick and cheap preliminary read if something has merit. Some of the ideas were not so promising, but others were worthy of taking forward to the next step.”

The class followed a traditional design process, albeit with a twist.

Nogales had his students take the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, a tool that helps identify personality types. He formed teams based on the results of the test, putting various personality types together for maximum benefit - a process that he learned about while pursuing his master’s degree at Northwestern University and used as an innovator at Procter & Gamble.

“The methodology worked very well,” he said. “Not to say that there wasn’t conflict or tension, but the students could recognize and work with the personality traits of their team members.”

“The most important lesson I took away from this experience was how to be more creative through teamwork and collaboration,” said student Diego Mollono.

The four teams made prototypes of their most promising designs with guidance from M-TEC engineers Charlie Park and Yu-Ping Tang.

Driscoll’s provided strawberry plants to test the prototypes. Students and M-TEC presented their prototypes to Driscoll’s via teleconference.

“Charlie and Yu-Ping were invaluable in helping the students bring their ideas to life — many of the students stayed after class to work with them,” Nogales said.

As a result of the class, the students, all juniors in mechanical engineering technology, will have some valuable credentials to add to their resumes: ideation, design, prototyping, teamwork and leadership. Most importantly, they can say they have real-world experience in innovation and have showcased a product they designed to a client.

“I learned how important deadlines are in industry, therefore this has been a valuable experience that will give me an advantage when presenting myself to future employers,” Mollono said.

And if Driscoll’s pursues patents on any of the designs, the students will be named on the patent.

“It was a real pleasure working with the New Mexico State group. Their brainstorming ideas led to some interesting concepts that will now go to the next stage of building a prototype for trialing in the fall of 2013,” said Bob Tipton, Driscoll’s nursery manager.

“This is a very dedicated group of students,” Hyde said. M-TEC is now investigating how it can help grape producers for the wine industry, Hyde added.

 

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