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News Bites: Industrial Design Students and Alum Find Success at Startup Weekend GR 2016

Posted April 21, 2016 in StudentAlumniIndustrial Design

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) Industrial Design students Bobby Adderley and Tori Williams and alumna Sopheari Mork (’12, Industrial Design) were part of the “THNX” team that won both the Crowd Favorite Award and the Gumption Award at Startup Weekend Grand Rapids 2016.

The annual event pits teams of students, entrepreneurs, and design and business professionals in a fast-paced competition to develop and effectively pitch innovative ideas for new products, businesses, or service models over the course of just a few days.

Led by Joe Salowitz, a user experience specialist at Grand Rapids-based digital design firm Universal Mind, the “THNX” team’s idea began as a concept for an electronic tip jar that would allow consumers to quickly and easily tip service employees using their debit/credit card or electronic payment applications such as Apple Pay or Samsung Pay.

Design rendering from Startup Weekend 2016(above): a 3D rendering of the team's electronic tip jar; (below): early ideation sketches (images courtesy of Joe Salowitz)

Design sketch from Startup Weekend 2016

The team wowed the other competitors, who voted “THNX” the winner of the sought after Crowd Favorite Award. They also earned the Gumption Award, given [by the judges] to the team that produced the most impressive amount of work over the course, by creating not only a physical prototype of the device, but its software design, digital interface, application design, branding, market research, and business plan as well.

Salowitz credits the team’s success to its diverse makeup. “We had a great mix of skills – sketch artists, graphic designers, embedded software engineers, programmers, and business people. We had a great dynamic, and that helped us accomplish an extraordinary amount of work over the course of the weekend.”

students working at Satrtup Weekend 2016(above): THNX team members working on a physical prototype of their electronic tip jar - a big reason the team won the Gumption Award; (below) rapid brainstorming and ideation is what Startup Weekend is all about (images courtesy of Joe Salowitz)

Adderley, a sophomore, helped create the initial sketches of the team’s design concept. It was his first time participating in Startup Weekend, and the experience proved to be an interesting contrast to his classwork.

“It was interesting working with other people. As a sophomore, I’m just now starting to involve other people on my projects, so it was interesting being a role player on a collaborative team,” he said.

In the wake of the event, Salowitz says that he will continue to develop the idea, pivoting it slightly in favor of a more sustainable business model.


For more information on KCAD’s Industrial Design program, visit kcad.edu/industrial.