LFM, SDM, and RISD students create accessory products for Eppinger’s course
By Monica Nakamine
April 27, 2003
Take the retro look of a hot-rod roadster, install a high-tech V8 engine, and add a retractable hardtop, and you’ve got the Chevy SSR General Motor Corporation’s newest production vehicle. MIT and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) students were assigned to create SSR (a.k.a., Super Sport Roadster) accessory products for Professor Steven Eppinger’s Product Design and Development course.
Although the majority of the class was comprised of students from the Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM) and System Design and Management (SDM) programs on the MIT side, Sloan MBA and engineering grad students also participated.
With an annual production of only 12,000 units and a base sticker price of $41,995, the Chevy SSR has already sold out in dealer allocations for 2003, as well as 2004, even before its summer 2003 release. The vehicle’s popularity might be attributed to the fusion of old-school and new-school elements that are evident in the design –an attribute that many of the students were drawn to.
"The coolest thing about the Chevy SSR is that GM was able to take a little bit of their history and do something very new and original with it," said John Sharkey, LFM ’04. "When you see this car, you know it’s a Chevy, but it doesn’t look like any Chevy you’ve seen. While the styling reminds you of a 1940s or ’50s Chevy truck, the hardtop convertible, sleek profile, and powerful engine make you think of a new high-performance sports car."
Thanks to Asoka Veeravagu (LFM ’02), manufacturing group leader at GM who is working on the vehicle’s launch, the Chevy SSR was shipped via transporter earlier this month from the Lansing, Michigan manufacturing plant to the MIT campus.
"As the lead on GM-sponsored project, it is my responsibility to help the students with their projects as much as possible," said Veeravagu. "Bringing the SSR to MIT gave them a chance to see firsthand just how cool and unique this vehicle truly is and incorporate their experience with the SSR into the creation of their products."
Although they weren’t able to drive it, the students could see, feel, and measure it for physical dimensions as well as aesthetic appropriateness.
"We were concerned that we could not effectively design an accessory that would enhance the SSR’s image without actually seeing the vehicle," said Satish Krishnan, LFM ’04. "When GM brought the SSR to MIT, we were not only impressed with its styling, but we were also able to modify our design to better fit the vehicle’s image."
Two teams of students in the class have developed storage accesories for the Chevy SSR, but each with a different twist.
"Our product is a storage device that will be integrated with the bed of the truck," said Steve King, LFM ’04 and member of Team A. "It is suitable for carrying everyday objects and portable, like a rolling suitcase. Most importantly, it looks cool!"
Team B had the party animal in mind when they created their product.
"Our product is a powered cooler with additional storage compartments," said SDM student Christopher Lim, member of Team B. "We envision it as part of a tail-gating package of accessories for the SSR, bringing easy functionality to the truck-bed area for people who want to take the party with them."
Aside from combining creativity with engineering know-how, Eppinger’s course also emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of successful product development, fusing manufacturing, engineering, marketing, business, and industrial design into one concept. By working with industrial designers from RISD, LFM and SDM students had a vantage point that allowed them to realize the value of industrial design.
"Bringing in the industrial design students from RISD allows MIT students to understand the role of industrial design professionals in product development," said Eppinger. On the flip side, the course "…also shows the RISD students that a great design is not sufficient for a successful product."
Team A consisted of: Anthony Faranca, LFM ’04; Peter Haughton, LFM ’04; Steve King, LFM ’04; Satish Krishnan, LFM ’04; Joe Levesque, LFM ’04; Nisheeth Singh, SDM ’03; Jennifer Chang, RISD ’04; and Jane Lee, RISD ’04.
Team B included: Krissa Arn, MS ’04; Michelle Bernson, LFM ’04; Carlos Gonzalez, LFM ’04; Christopher Lim, SDM ’03; Soyoung Park, RISD ’04; Mauricio Salazar, MBA ’03; Lee Souder, RISD ’04; Michelle Stevens, SDM ’03; and Michael Zeppieri, LFM ’04.