LAWRENCE — University of Kansas students in a Department of Design class presented new product concepts earlier this year to executives from Garmin International, the Olathe-based manufacturer of global-positioning systems products.
Huw Thomas, associate professor of design, worked with Yoshi Sato, Garmin’s head of industrial design. They focused the class assignment on Garmin’s marine, fitness and sports, outdoor recreation, and automotive navigation device products.
In a change from the typical "prescriptive" design assignment, the 10 industrial design students were asked to explore ways Garmin could expand its current product offerings in the next three to five years. Each student had to originate a design approach that was appropriate for the client.
Following a comprehensive study of the firm’s products, they made three trips to Garmin’s facility. In turn, members of the company design staff traveled to work with the students in Lawrence. One was a design “boot camp” held late one night at the Center for Design Research on KU’s west campus.
“This project gave our industrial design students access to Garmin’s design studio and workshop, where few from the public are ever allowed to go,” Thomas said.
“This allowed us to observe firsthand how important design is to one of Kansas’s largest employers of industrial designers and for the students to gain critical feedback on their ideas,” he said. "And the interaction allows me to see what talents a company is looking for in its future employees.”
The exercise culminated in a variety of prototypes. The ideas presented included a skydiving descent monitor, emergency disaster relief, fitness and training, tourist-themed navigation devices and a land-surveying aid.
At the end of the semester the students made presentations that included sketches, renderings, computer animations and 3D-printed, ergonomically correct models of their prototypes to a team of executives. Students and Garmin employees reviewed the projects individually in a followup session.
“For third-year students the work was very relevant to Garmin,” Sato said. “They excelled considering that it was a short-term assignment and they have little real world experience. I look forward to seeing their work develop next year."
Participating students were Brandon Clay, Olathe; Haley Fetters-Crouch, Overland Park; Garrett Hafker, Lawrence; Amber Hanschu, Wichita; Jay Livingston, Independence, Missouri; Geoffrey Maxwell, Prairie Village; Ashley Shelton, Overland Park; Kaley Tesdahl, Lawrence, and Fanjue Wu, Jinhua, Zhejiang, China.