Dual-Degree Student Spotlight

Author: Andrea Lebron

Student Spotlight - Breanna Stachowski (Class of 2013)

This is the first in a series of student spotlights for the Reilly Dual-Degree Arts & Letter/Engineering Program. 

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Author: Breanna Stachowski 
Spring 2013

At the end of January, I received news that I had placed 3rd in the International Housewares Association Student Design Competition and would have the opportunity to present my design at the International Housewares show which took place from March 2-5.  The product I designed is called the Neat Seat, a space-saving high-chair for kids.  This product had a special focus on clean-ability with a removable seat pan, but also had various adjust-ability options including an option to clamp right to the top of a table surface.  At the show I was given the opportunity to present my idea to several manufacturers and companies, as well as interested show attendees.  After four long days of giving sales pitch after sales pitch, I left the show with several contacts interested in possibly taking my product to market, a pile of new business cards from various companies in the housewares industry, and even an internship offer.  It was an exhausting experience, but very rewarding.  It was great to hear parents and grandparents give me feedback about the design and how much they loved it and wished it was around when their kids were younger.

Part of the requirement for the IHA show presentation was to create a prototype.  I only had a month between news of the 3rd place prize and the start of the show to create this, which is a very short period of time to create a prototype of the size and complexity of mine.  Thankfully, a visiting design professor from Whirlpool (Michael Kahwaji) went way out of his way for me and was able to get Whirlpool Corportation's Global Consumer Design Department to sponsor much of the prototype build.  The Reilly Center funded many other aspects of the prototype build and show presentation requirements!  Paramount Plastics donated a part I needed vacuumed formed, and PJ's Custom Paint and Body in South Bend painted the model for me and very fast!  Many people at the show were shocked at how realistic the model looked, and I couldn't have done it without all the help!

There are so many things that come into play in product design, having those technical and art backgrounds merged together throughout the entire design process saves both time and complications.

Being a 5th year senior in the Reilly Dual-Degree Program, I learned fast how much my degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design have come into play, especially in competitions such as this one. Someone could create a beautiful design, but without taking the necessary steps to make sure it is manufactured correctly and that it actually works, it is essentially useless from a marketing standpoint.  At the same time, someone could create a beautifully-engineered product, but unless it addresses ergonomic, ethnographic, and aesthetic considerations, it will never be successful on any market.  There are so many things that come into play in product design, having those technical and art backgrounds merged together throughout the entire design process saves both time and complications.  My biggest weakness has always been in form development, but I was very lucky to have a design professor, Ann-Marie Conrado, who pushed me very hard and really worked closely with me all last semester to improve tremendously in that area.  I would never have placed in the competition without her help!  I placed honorable mention in the same competition last year for my design of an ergonomic snow shovel handle, following the same mindset of combining technical aspects into the design process early.  Being able to infuse a technical and design education together as well as the additional resources I have available by being a student in 2 departments has definitely given me countless opportunities.  

Click here to see Breanna's website. 


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