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Illuminated Umbrella: An Engineering/Visual Arts Interdisciplinary Product Development

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2017 ASEE Mid Atlantic Section Spring Conference


Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

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April 7, 2017

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April 7, 2017

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April 8, 2017

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Peter Raymond Stupak Raritan Valley Community College

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Peter Stupak enjoyed a 22 year career in the optical-fiber manufacturing industry living and working in 7 countries where he held a variety of hands-on technical and business-management positions. Starting as a R&D Engineer, Peter became fascinated by how a manufacturing business operates and made successive steps into engineering and manufacturing management culminating in the construction, start-up, and operation of an optical fiber factory in Suzhou, China where he was the sole in-country representative of his US-based company. Following China, Peter joined the RVCC Science and Engineering Department in Fall 2014 where he instructs Physics and Engineering courses and also remains the Chief Technology Officer of the China company. He holds a BS in Chemistry and MS and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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Illuminated Umbrella – An Engineering/Visual Arts Interdisciplinary Product Development

P.R. Stupak and D. McManus

Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg, NJ

An Engineering & Visual Arts collaboration in Fall 2016 resulted in a unique Illuminated Umbrella product where a transparent plastic umbrella, sequined with 200 LED lights along the umbrella ribs, illuminated when opened – but required no batteries. The Engineering Student Team consisted of four 2nd-year Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) Engineering students participating in an “Authentic Engineering Experience” course where they were tasked to design, prototype, build, and deliver a real product to a real customer. The Visual Art Student Team, comprised of eleven RVCC Visual Communications majors enrolled in the Fall 2016 Visual Design 2 course, were each tasked with developing a complete graphic-identity for the product including a unique product name, a logo, corporate collateral (business card, envelope, letterhead), product packaging, and two print advertisements.

The Illuminated Umbrella product required The Engineering Student Team to learn hands-on to generate the required electrical energy using the physics and engineering principles of electromagnetic-induction, store the energy in capacitors, and release the energy to the array of LED lights. The team presented prototypes to the “customer” (a Graphics Design Professor) and responded to feedback received from the customer and Visual Design 2 students to configure and mount the power-generation and electronic components to minimize their visibility while creating a more contemporary aesthetic for the umbrella. Additionally, The Engineering Student Team overcame multiple practical and technical challenges to assemble, solder, and waterproof the strings of LEDs and package the electronics in a waterproof custom 3D-printed case.

The Visual Design 2 students worked collaboratively as a class to generate ideas to improve the overall design and functionality of the Illuminated Umbrella and were each individually tasked to develop a unique graphic-identity for the product as well. The design concept for each graphic-identity was based on the envisioned target market for the product, which varied from student to student. The actual design execution was predicated on ease of product recognition using the product name and logo, selected color palette, supplementary graphics and typography, and uniqueness of the packaging solution intended for distribution and sale.

This project was a genuine inter-disciplinary Engineering and Arts collaboration. The Illuminated Umbrella product and the three best graphic-identities were featured in the RVCC Art Gallery as part of the Independent Study Students Exhibition from January 23rd to February 10th, 2017.

The motivation and goal of the project was to expose the Engineering students early in their academic careers and under “authentic engineering” conditions, to vital skills and practices used daily in industry, including in part: customer communication and support, teamwork and internal communications, project responsibility, project management, continuous improvement, and product customization. The practical objective was to give students authentic hands-on product development and project execution experience to relate to potential internship and professional employers. Although guided at arms-length by industry-experienced staff, the overwhelming emphasis was for The Engineering Student Team to reach their own designs, experience their own failures and successes in earning their own know-how, resolve their own communications and scheduling conflicts, and to respond to customer critical comments of prototype product performance.

Stupak, P. R. (2017, April), Illuminated Umbrella: An Engineering/Visual Arts Interdisciplinary Product Development Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Mid Atlantic Section Spring Conference, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland.

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