Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship CO_OP: Design for Manufacturing

Justin McLeod, Junior Product Designer, Design 1st

The following post provides a summary of Justin McLeod’s learning experience during his Entrepreneurship CO-OP with the University of Ottawa Entrepreneurship Hub (E-Hub). Our thanks to Kevin Bailey, President of Ottawa-based Design 1st for giving Justin a truly unique co-op placement and experience.

Learning Objectives (written by Kevin Bailey)

Justin will be tasked with several design projects as specified by Design 1st senior staff. As Junior Product Designer, Justin will be exposed to all stages and aspects of taking an idea from rudimentary sketches into physical product designs that customers want.

Justin will be integrated into our front end planning process to determine what steps should be completed first before jumping into the full design of a new product idea. He will be shown and trained to take an engineering feasibility viewpoint of the new product idea. For example, risk may be heat generated internally in the product, materials exposure to extreme cold, optical path feasibility, limited space and material selection for strength and weight, RF emission and containment, shipping survival, structural vulnerability to being damaged and many other roadblocks that you should assess early. By evaluating the identified high risk elements Justin and our design team can then focus on solutions that minimize the risk.

The specific projects in which Justin will be involved will be identified at the time of his co-op start date with Design 1st. We expect the projects to be of varying complexity.

“Justin’s apprenticeship as a junior product designer will undoubtedly contribute to the development of his entrepreneurial skills set.”

He will not only receive a sound grounding in the intricacies of sound product design, he will also benefit from the opportunity to develop his teamwork and customer relationship abilities.

MakerLab at Design 1st

Justin is part of three-person team addressing several projects this summer covering IOT technologies, robotics, product design, and path to market skills. Some of these projects will be presented at the Ottawa Maker Faire this November. They are designed to excite, inspire, and help raise the international profile of our city’s maker movement.

Learning Insights (written by Justin McLeod)

“University teaches a lot, but there’s nothing quite like learning through your own product start-up.”

Throughout this work term, a large amount of knowledge and experience was acquired. Not only about certain electronics, microcontrollers and how things work in the industry, but also about how to collaborate in a team setting with other engineers and non-engineers, about the nonlinear path that is the design process and about the relationship between design and manufacturing. Learning about this relationship in particular was one of the primary objectives.

Makey Wall Project

During the Makey Wall project (pictured left), this relationship can be seen a number of times surrounding the LED panels and the control system. When the LED panels arrived, the dimensions were a half inch smaller and as a result, the way the frame was manufactured and built had to be changed to accommodate these panels. For the control system, when the decision changed to only have a single reader, the bill of materials drastically changed alongside the way the wall would be wired. During these changes, it was noticed that many elements can be a factor in how something is manufactured. However, the main factors that were observed while working on the assigned projects of this work term are how the electronics are assembled, the manufactured dimensions of part and not their theoretical dimensions as well as the shape of the part to be manufactured.

Our MakerLab Team having a candid brainstorming session

A secondary objective of this work term was collaboration in a team of interdisciplinary students. This proved harder as first thought due to the fact that, as an engineering student, what is learnt is to produce the most functional and simple design as possible. This mentality represented a conflict with the industrial design approach that puts the emphasis on building something that is user friendly and aesthetically pleasing but the design isn’t always the simplest. Consequently, a large experience extracted from this work term is to respect others thoughts and ideas as well as develop every possible solution before really pursuing a single one. The relationship between design and engineering also became much more apparent and fundamental. The president of the company describes this relationship as an 80% overlap of one another.

The electronics behind the Makey Wall

Another element that was extracted from this work term is the design process and what it really consists of. As learnt in MCG2501: Introduction à la conception, the design process is like a pyramid where one starts out with many ideas and slowly funnels some out until a design meeting all criteria and restrictions are met at the point of the pyramid. This is somewhat true however it is described as being an almost linear process. On the contrary, as written by the Design 1st Maker lab team in a blog post titled Anything but a Straight Line (What School May Not Teach You About the Design Process), the title and diagram (pictured below), says it all.

The design process doesn’t move in a straight line.

The blog post touches upon a project the student team had undertaken for a few weeks and how deep the team had gotten into the project before realizing that the main component didn’t work as needed. In short, the team was already at the prototyping phase but had to loop back to the ideation phase. This ties in with what was stated above; develop every option before pursuing a single one.

Entrepreneurial Pathway (written by Luc Lalande)

Justin’s Entrepreneurship CO-OP with Design 1st represents the inaugural step of his entrepreneurial journey. Having experienced first-hand the intricate process of transforming a product concept to manufacturability, Justin will have gained both critical insights and know-how that can only be obtained from this “learning-by-doing” style of apprenticeship.

The next step for Justin upon his return to studies in the Fall (2015) is to continue his apprenticeship as lead of the “StudIoT Guild”. The StudIoT Guild is a “Proto-Venture” led by the Entrepreneurship Hub at the University of Ottawa that will give students practical experience in exploring and experimenting with Internet of Things applications in industrial, consumer, agriculture, energy, retail and healthcare.

Justin will lead and manage a team of students from diverse disciplines including electronics, computer science, environmental engineering, business, and the arts to design and discover potential new applications in the fast growing IoT field.

Justin’s apprenticeship in entrepreneurial leadership integrates not only the traditional techniques of entrepreneurship education but special emphasis will be placed on the development of so-called “soft” skills such as team management, empowerment through delegation, balance creative and critical thinking, empathy, and commitment towards client service.

Looking to the future, we are also exploring the potential of Justin continuing his entrepreneurial apprenticeship in Shenzhen, China in 2016. Shenzhen has become the world’s most well-known center of hardware and consumer electronics production