on
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students Frank Yuscavage (left), Molly Yuschock ’22 (center) and Miquela Langan ’21 (right) sit side by side smiling as Frank Yuscavage holds one of the group's flexible, collapsible hair clips
Frank Yuscavage (left), Molly Yuschock ’22 (center) and Miquela Langan ’21 (right) worked with classmates to develop a flexible, collapsible hair clip (pictured below, Right).

Engineering Students Turn Problems into Products

close view of a two flexible, collapsible hair clips in white and red

“To be able to put an idea into a tangible form, really making something solid and not just imagining it, is great,” said Nickerson DeMelfi, a graduate bioengineering student from Newbury Park, California. Making ideas into reality is what graduate and undergraduate students do in BEGR 411 Integrated Product Development, taught by Jamal Ghorieshi, professor of mechanical engineering.

“It is simple, you learn by practicing. For instance, you learn how to drive a car by actually driving one,” said Ghorieshi. “I think product development is the type of course that provides an opportunity for students to learn by practicing.” The students agree.

“Thinking about something that felt impossible and making it possible feels amazing,” said Alexis Vélez, a graduate mechanical engineering student from Caguas, Puerto Rico.

One of the most unique parts of this course is how subject matter experts from a variety of disciplines are brought in to enrich the already hands-on experience, working with students to design plans for bringing a product to market. This innovative teaching approach helps Wilkes University’s College of Business and Engineering stand out.

“We have a nice mix of creatives and engineers in our group,” said Miquela Langan ’21, a bioengineering graduate student from Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. “The interdisciplinary aspects of this course have been awesome.”

“It is simple, you learn by practicing. For instance, you learn how to drive a car by actually driving one. I think product development is the type of course that provides an opportunity for students to learn by practicing.”

– Jamal Ghorieshi, professor of mechanical engineering

Guest lecturers this semester included Brad Barry, director of creative services, and Mandy Pennington, director of digital strategy, from the University’s Marketing Communications team; Anna Ma, assistant professor of marketing and Ken Wang, associate professor of finance, from the Sidhu School of Business & Leadership; Brian Sacolic, director of the Farley Library; Xiaoming Mu, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Yong Zhu, associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Jerry Lisman, chairman and CEO of operating company Lisman Holdings, Inc.

It all starts with an idea. The goal is to choose something that can benefit society, then work together to refine and prototype each invention. “It’s good to make things that help people,” said Harfan Alahmary, a graduate mechanical engineering student from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who is collaborating with classmates to develop a cooling hat that can offer much-needed relief in hot weather. “I’ve really enjoyed working with my team.”

two young men smile standing side by side in a computer filled lecture room, each holding either side of their newly developed unique coffee cup carrier

Ahmed Alsahli (left) and Mohammed Almadhor (right) worked with their group partners to develop a unique style of coffee cup carrier.

During this semester’s class, four groups worked on four distinct products: a coffee cup carrier to make beverage service at home easier, a collapsible hair clip made from flexible material, a cooling hat designed for extreme climates and a vibrating device meant to stir liquids used in life sciences experiments without exposing them to contaminants.

Once the product was prototyped, each went through a series of refinements to ensure its readiness to take to market. Students also performed a patent search to see what inventions related to their projects may already exist. “The process is inspiring me to patent [a product] in the future,” said Ahmed Alsahli, a bioengineering graduate student from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who worked on the coffee carrier project.

Plans for manufacturing and producing the device at scale follow, along with the development of marketing and sales strategies, including the creation of videos to sell their products to target audiences. This allowed students to fully understand not only how their products offer value to a particular market, but what demand may exist. “Figuring out what product is the hard part but converting to sales is the hardest part,” said Ghorieshi.

Students agreed that the process of developing a new product from scratch was an incredible learning opportunity. “It made us all think outside what we’ve known,” said Molly Yuschock ’22, a graduate bioengineering student from Ashland, Pennsylvania.