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Student designers and becoming the clients

2016 marks my second year being involved with the medical design students of the Wolfson School of Engineering at Loughborough University, acting as a ‘Dragon’ to review final pitches by the students for their inventions. This year Team decided to forge a closer relationship with the students to work as mentors and clients for their projects. Working with Alex Lyness, the course tutor, we set the design briefs for the students to respond to. To set the students off in the right direction, Julia Allwright, Nick Hitchins and I delivered a presentation explaining the medical device development process.

Over the past ten weeks, Julia, Nick and I have been mentoring the students by acting as their clients for the projects. We have been reviewing their work, providing feedback and steering their developments through web conferences every other week. Not only did these web conferences help with the logistics of working with students 90 miles away but it also gave the students an insight into the way consultants work with clients today.

On Friday the 13th of May the students had to ‘pitch’ their final designs to me and three other dragons from industry and academia. Following the Q&A session (described as ‘brutal’ by Alex Lyness) we awarded prizes to the “Best Pitch” and the “Most Investable Product”. The Best Pitch was for a non-invasive glucose sensor and maintenance app for late onset diabetes. The students did a great job of conveying a clear vision for their product including a demo phone app.

The winner of the Most Investable Product was a body-worn bolus injector for trauma patients that used a novel mechanical delivery system with a ‘stapler’ style action to start the delivery. The six students who created this design were each given Amazon vouchers donated by Team, as recognition of their outstanding design.

Dragons Den 2016 winners
Pitching the idea

Dragons Den 2016 winners
One of the winning teams

All of the students on the course engaged with the process fully and each of the design teams did an excellent job of pitching their ideas. I’ve had some great feedback from the students regarding the value of the mentoring that Team provided but it’s also given us a valuable insight to the client/designer relationship. Acting as the client in this exercise gave us a new understanding on how to engage with our own clients, hold their interest and surprise and delight them. It also gave us a few pointers on what can frustrate clients and what we can do better.

The engagement with the Loughborough students has been very rewarding for Team and as an alumnus of Loughborough myself I’m delighted that Team supports me in giving my expertise back to the university. Hopefully Julia, Nick and I have given the students a useful insight into how rewarding a career in medical device development can be. We may see some of this year’s designers joining our other Loughborough graduates at Team.

 


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