Ryan Chartrand

Industrial technology students are putting the skills they’ve learned to the test in IT 407, where students invent and sell products entirely from scratch.

The list of products offered by this quarter’s groups, or “companies,” include guitar stands for “Guitar Hero,” wall-mounted surfboard/bike racks, designer weathervanes and solar-powered garden lamps.

“It’s a competition-based class; we’re competing against each other in production,” said Curtis Thomas, an industrial technology senior with the group Polyracks. “It’s cool to see how it will go down. It’s like starting your own business.”

On top of designing and manufacturing the products, students must go through a myriad of steps before their creations can hit the shelves, like creating safety manuals and contacting suppliers, not to mention funding the projects entirely from their own pockets. In addition, the groups are only allowed to outsource 10 percent of the actual work.

“A lot of local companies are supportive of our projects,” said Justin Miller, an industrial technology senior with the group True North Manufacturing. “It helps keep the cost down.”

Fortunately for the students, any profits from sales go back to the group. On the flip side, however, if a product doesn’t sell, the group takes a financial hit. With the risk of lost profits looming over their heads, students must be innovative in their creations and marketing methods in order to ensure success.

Such is the case with the group Lightscape’s solar-powered garden lamps. “Our lights contain five LED bulbs, whereas most only have three,” Jordan Gouvia said. “That’s what separates our lights from our competitors.”

Polyracks’ wall-mounted surfboard/bike rack is being sold at a reduced price in order to gain market penetration. The versatile rack can also serve as a shelf once a surfboard is placed on it.

The group Axerack has a Web site (theaxerack.com) where buyers can pre-order a “Guitar Hero” stand. The stand can hold two wireless guitars, and the group hopes to incorporate microphone and game console holders into the design as well.

True North Manufacturing is setting itself apart by offering three different designs for their weathervane, including a mustang, a whale and a sailboat. The group also hopes that by selling a high-quality product for cheaper than what’s currently available, they will be able to break into the market.

During this process, students take on various job titles and functions within their groups. The class encompasses all the skills learned by industrial technology majors in previous studies and puts them to use in one big applied-learning experience.

“It’s an intense, headfirst, in-depth class,” Thomas said. “It makes me appreciate the things I’ve learned at Poly. I’ve actually gone back to notes I’ve taken in previous classes just to look something up.”

Cliff Barber teaches the class and describes the course as “three quarters of work crammed into one.”

“The class is an exaggerated simulation of real life,” Barber said. “I teach the students to be comfortable in ambiguity so they can leave with the confidence that they have managed a company themselves.”

The groups are currently in the production process. On March 13, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., there will be a trade show on Dexter Lawn, with each group setting up shop at Farmers’ Market later that evening.

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