Team CHAIR-iot clinched the 2016 Core Challenge
From physical therapy exercises to playing with pets, for those with mobility limitations, an action as simple as crouching poses a significant problem. Through the efforts of 10 students at Boston University Questrom School of Business, however, a solution is now within reach.
The group took home first prize in the 18th Core New Product Challenge on April 4 for their presentation of the CHAIR-iot, a walker-like structure with a motorized seat that slowly transports the user to the ground and back up to a normal sitting position. The vertical motorized seat capability is designed for those who have trouble bending or squatting, and allows users to regain the mobile independence they may have lost. It also has a remote attached to the seat and the entire structure is secured with a reliable cable brake system.
“The CHAIR-iot was inspired by our teammates’ experiences with our elders and those with mobility limitations,” says team member Josie Gitlin (Questrom’17). “We noticed that many people who struggled with bending down or crouching had a difficult time getting to the ground.”
The Core Challenge is the culmination of SM323, also known as “The Core,” one of the key elements differentiating Questrom’s undergraduate curriculum. The Core integrates a set of four courses—marketing, operations, finance, and analytics—into a one-semester sequence through a common semester-long project focused on new product or service development.
Designed to simulate a real-world environment, it enables students to work in teams and requires each to design a new product by assessing customer needs and markets, build marketing plans to sell it, develop operations processes, and understand the risks involved in implementing and financing. Each year, Core faculty members nominate projects from about 90 plans for review. Three finalists are selected based on how well each team’s plan displayed the analysis of their research during the semester, rather than the idea itself.
“The Core Challenge allows the three top teams to showcase their research and rationale pertaining to their project to a large group of students, faculty, and guests,” says Jonathan D. Hibbard, assistant professor of marketing and faculty lead of Interdisciplinary Core.
This year’s finalists were COOKIN, which combines the benefits of a fine dining restaurant and a cooking class in a revolutionary dining experience; the Nuttery Café, an artisanal nut butter sandwich café that brings back the classic PB&J sandwich with a modern twist; and the CHAIR-iot. Each team presented to a panel of judges comprised of Ian Mashiter, senior lecturer of strategy and innovation and director of the BUzz Lab, Jerri McMannis (Questrom’08), global supply planner at New Balance, and Daniel Nickerson (Questrom’11), pricing and valuation analyst at the Baupost Group. The panel named CHAIR-iot the winner, as the team “delivered a well-rehearsed presentation and strong Q&A,” according to Hibbard.
While CHAIR-iot’s win resulted in a prize including gift cards, framed certificates, and their team’s product name on the Core Challenge trophy, Gitlin notes an even greater reward.
“The most important lessoned learned during Core was effectively functioning as a team in that we were able to come together and value one another’s opinions,” says Gitlin. “As a group of 10 people, it can be difficult to reach consensus and incorporate everyone’s thoughts. Yet, our team overcame this challenge by having numerous team meetings in which we were all able to contribute our ideas and then combine them for the best possible outcome.”
Along with Gitlin, the CHAIR-iot team included Christine Beylerian, Daniel Fernandez, Lizhen Fu, Federico Gianotti, Steven Prieto, Erin Roesch, Maria Simeonova, Sam Twer, and Robert Weingart—all members of the Class of 2017. The team’s faculty advisors were Keith Osher, Ted Chadwick, Justin Ren, and Georgios Zervas.
Beyond the Core, Gitlin already sees how this experience will serve her and her teammates as they pursue careers in business.
“As business people, it is reasonable to say at some point in the future we may have to create a business plan for an organization,” says Gitlin. “By already having experience producing a comprehensive business plan from Core, it will be easier to craft an effective plan and know the proper components that go into it. The hands-on experience we were all able to receive by being exposed to both marketing, operations, and finance will undoubtedly benefit our careers in the future.”
Photo (from left): Josie Gitlin, Daniel Fernandez, Jerri McMannis, Maria Simeonova, Steven Prieto, Ian Mashiter, Fu Lizhen, Daniel Nickerson, Sam Twer, and Erin Roesch