April 19, 2018 was a bit like a scene out of the TV show “Shark Tank” for 170 engineering students from Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, Illinois. That was the day they presented their appliance design concepts for judging during the Product Design Competition sponsored by Sears and Kenmore.
During the past month, more than 30 teams of students brainstormed ways to build a better appliance: refrigerators, ranges, dishwashers, microwaves, gas grills, vacuums and small kitchen appliances like blenders.
After weeks of research and collaboration, including interviewing their parents about “pain points” they have with their appliances, the students finalized their product designs, perfected their sales pitches and made the trip to the Sears Holdings’ headquarters in Hoffman Estates, where they presented their concepts to Kenmore engineers, industrial designers, associates, and executives who judged the competition. The presentations included computer-aided designs and some also had 3D models of the appliances.
The competition was the brainchild of Mike Saubert, director of Industrial Design for Kenmore, and Rob Weber, vice president of Human Resources at Sears Holdings. Rob’s son, Alex, is an engineering student at Prairie Ridge, so when Rob and Mike discussed ways to help mentor students, they quickly landed on the appliance design competition. They contacted Nick Low, computer aided design and engineering teacher at Prairie Ridge, and off they went.
“Think back to your time in high school. Do you recall when you were trying to decide what field to study and career path to take? It can be a daunting task for a teen,” Saubert said. “This program provides real-life experience in a supportive and fun way. Our goal is to help provide direction to the students so they better understand what path they want to take in life.”
The competition was unveiled to the students on March 15 when Kenmore engineers and industrial designers participated in a career day, answered questions about the field and explained the competition.
During their visit to Sears, the students also received a tour of the Sears lab, where Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard products are developed and tested. They also heard a presentation on branding from Peter Boutros, chief marketing executive and head of International for Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands.
When asked what advice he has for the students to be successful in their careers and life, Boutros said: “Be authentic. If you’re an introvert, be an introvert. If you’re an extrovert, be an extrovert. Either way, be your authentic self and you should find happiness and success.”
Saubert also presented to the students, providing insights on careers in engineering and industrial design. “I have three tips for you,” he said. “First, your attitude is everything, so pick a good one. Second, you determine where you go in life – not your parents or your friends. And third, communication is key. Seek first to understand. The quality of your communication will determine the quality of your life and your career.”
Four teams were recognized for their appliance designs:
- Infinity Oven – cooking
- Hakuna Matata – refrigeration
- Best Mates – gas grills
- Samurai – blender
The Infinity Oven team received a perfect score for their design of the Infinity Oven.