The students are asked to find a company that delivers a product in their area of very high quality, and report on the company and product. So far eight groups have given presentations. I obviously cannot go into detail on each presentation in a post to a blog, but I will list the topics and give you a link to a web page if one exists.
Four of the first eight presentations were on the topic of human fit – physical, sensory, and cognitive compatibility between the product and the humans using it. The products were the Boosted Board electrically powered skateboard with a range of 6 miles on a charge and a top speed of 20 mph, the off-road version of the Segway vehicle, the Boobypack, a bra somewhat between a sports bar and a bikini top with two pockets to carry such things as a cell phone and credit cards, and a toy under development that allows the user to construct three dimensional structures using various plastic pieces and rubber bands. The latter is not far enough along to be a company with a web site, but although meant for a younger age group (3 to 7), the students in the class seemed quite fascinated with sample structures they were given to play with. The first three products are well documented in the linked websites. As a sign of the present age, one of the products (the skateboard) has been developed by Stanford alumni, another (the toy) is being developed by a Stanford graduate student.
The next three presentations were on the topic of craftsmanship, and focused on Tcho chocolate, Yogitoes yoga towel , and Riddell football helmets. Chocolate was furnished to everyone for the first, and yoga and helmet demonstrations accompanied the next two. I gained personally from the chocolate presentation. I like chocolate so much that I chew it up rapidly and swallowed it. I learned that if you just leave it in your mouth on your tongue, you can taste it for a very long time before it all melts. I am trying to learn to do this, in spite of the fact that it is so satisfying to just gulp it down. The demonstrations were very noteworthy because they involved large and rapid movements in a very small space.
The eighth presentation was on the topic of emotion and products, and focused on the Kaeng Raeng detox drink. This is a drink that comes as a box of powder containing vitamins, proteins, and other “natural” products, and is mixed with water and drunk in lieu of food for a period (3 days? 6 days?). It is alleged to make you feel better, lose weight, and be healthier. Upon tasting it, the students in the class were somewhat unconvinced, but the group giving the presentation were quite positive about the product, and the product is obviously loved (emotion) by many people, Products such as this often have a positive emotional affect on people above and beyond nutritional effects – think of spas and meditation. And positive emotions do seem to correspond to health.
But I have noticed one bad product in all of this — the adapters needed to connect portable computers to the projection system in the room. The projection system is equipped with a VGA plug —somewhat standard. It would be nice if no adapters were needed. But computers (especially Apple’s portables) have smaller plugs, and they seem to become smaller with each version. If there is one thing I learned in my aerospace days, it is that larger connectors are more reliable over time. The adapters to the smaller plugs seem to become intermittent over time, and of course get lost, confused (which one is mine?), and sometimes simply don’t work.
I used to think Kodak Carousel projects tripped up presentations. But my experience at giving talks and lectures via digital equipment is that we are gaining in being able to make, organize, and store slides , but losing in system simplicity, especially in places we have not used before—I have mentioned the "smart" panels in some of the new buildings at Stanford before. Woe be unto the person unaquainted with these panels who walks for the first time into a room containing one of them naively expecting to figure out how to show slides without help from a native.