During March of 2023 our HAMK Design Factory students travelled to Hochschule Mannheim, Germany to launch the International Product Development Project with our partner inno.space Design Factory Mannheim with a weeklong bootcamp. 12 HAMK Design Factory students and 12 inno.space Design Factory Mannheim students were divided into four international and multidisciplinary teams in which they aim to solve product development problems given by our sponsor companies during the spring of 2023. The students represented various disciplines, such as, design, international business, electrical and automation engineering, computer science, chemical engineering at Bachelor and Master level.
The main task for this bootcamp week was to get everyone together, team up, meet the sponsors, and get started on prototyping and problem solving. Obviously, we started with a bit of getting-to-know-each-other games but quickly proceeded to the first prototyping mission in teams. Each team had to build a catapult from limited materials, which would throw a small metal ball to the longest distance. This was meant to bring the team together and test their communication and prototyping skills. In this mission the teams had limited amount of time and the best catapult “won,” at least figuratively.
Multidisciplinary fields of expertise
The week also included meetings with the sponsors and teachers, a lot of brainstorming, and lectures, for example about Design Thinking. At the end of everyday we had a reflection meeting, where students were able to tell their feelings anonymously, what they liked, what they learned and what challenged them. Some students were rather terrified about the amount of work and challenges in this iPDP (international Product Development Project), but those fears were quickly eased by the teachers from HAMK Design Factory and inno.space Design Factory Mannheim.
Even though cultural differences between Finland and Germany became obvious during that week, they were overcome with good communication. It helped that HAMK’s students are very international and used to work in international environments. Nationalities in this iPDP varied from all over the world, more than 10 countries. The writer herself is the one who is from the most north, Central Finland, which for Finns is not even that north. The most obvious difference between the two schools for someone there for the first time was the fact that HAMK students were always on time, usually a bit early. Perhaps the excitement about the trip and unfamiliar environment played a role in that.
On the last day of the bootcamp students finally got into some prototyping when they were asked to create the most obvious prototype for their sponsors problem and the craziest prototype they could imagine. This really set their imaginations flying, especially the crazy prototype. The most obvious prototypes showed that the students really understood the sponsor’s problems and the craziest prototype made it clear that the students had plenty of skills in problem-solving and they were not afraid of putting themselves out there trying to find the solutions.
Conclusions from the writer
Overall, this bootcamp week was a great learning and observing week for me, who has not ever been a part of iPDP or any kind of Design Factory product development project. I was able to see the structure of the project, see how we communicate and cooperate with our partner schools and just in general how to kick off a project as massive as this.
I will be seeing the students during the spring in their online coaching meetings, but latest in June when the German students arrive to HAMK Design Factory to finalize their projects and then we will have the Final Gala on June 19th , where team present and pitch their prototypes to the partner companies. Cannot wait to see what they have created!
Eeva Hirvinen, HAMK Design Factory