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Product design courses & Kickstarter

I love Kickstarter.  In fact, I’ve had to develop a few new habits around Kickstarter because otherwise I end up purchasing a whole ton of stuff that’s really interesting, but that I don’t actually need.

Recently I was thinking about design courses that most universities offer (at least in engineering departments) in students’ senior years.  It’s been a few years since I completed my degree, but I remember there were always at least a few design projects that were really interesting.  One friend built an automated bartender; punch in a code corresponding to a drink, and a series of windshield washer fluid motors would pump the right amount of ingredients into a glass to mix your drink.  (You still had to add ice and do any shaking/stirring required.)

What I would love to see is universities encouraging students to try to scale these projects by getting them funded on Kickstarter.  Just going through the process of trying to scale a one-off project to something more, and the marketing skills involved in that, would be hugely valuable to most engineering students.  If the projects actually got funded, it would mean students would learn lessons an order of magnitude more valuable… in actually engineering and creating and fulfilling products at scale.

I’ll admit that this doesn’t work for everyone… the space system design course I took as an aerospace engineering senior is not well suited to Kickstarter… to say the least!  But there are a lot of students that would learn so much more by taking their academic designs and testing them in the market.  If universities aren’t trying to encourage this today, they’re doing a disservice to their students.