Darden MBA Students Study With Engineers


For the past four years, Professor Raul Chao at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business has taught a class called "Developing New Products and Services," in which student teams design and make a prototype of a new product or service. For the first time this year, he says his class has teamed up with U.Va.’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to create a more collaborative and realistic environment for the class.

Engineering students are now teamed with Darden full-time MBA students to work collaboratively on their projects. The students are using rapid prototyping and electronics capabilities and will have to communicate effectively with one another to get the desired results.

This unique type of class engagement exists at some of the best schools in the world such as MIT and Stanford, Chao says, but is new at Darden. Chao believes this class could be a major driving force for creating bellwether startups that originate at Darden. The engineering students will work with a sketch or model of a Darden student’s planned product and create three-dimensional prototypes.

Chao says some of the Darden students taking his class were in the Darden incubator and some will go from his class to the incubator. This class is being used as a “testing board” for making products tangible. He adds that students can tend to get “comfy” with case studies, but this class features no case work. Instead, the class is in Darden’s iLab, which is an open environment that fosters teamwork.

“This is an action-based class, where student projects are the cases we work on throughout the quarter,” says Chao. “To students who typically work only with written cases, this is exciting stuff,” he adds. The class will teach MBAs to work collaboratively with engineers, who think and produce differently than the business students. “In this class, our students are making and doing in addition to thinking and analyzing,” he adds.

The class will sponsor a design fair to be held on Monday, 5 December, in the Saunders Hall lobby and the South Lounge, in which students will display their product or service prototypes and the process they used throughout the class. Chao says the product/service prototypes are meant to show “proof of concept,” to convey clear customer appeal in an identified market and must be technically functional.

The fair will be open to the U.Va. community and the public from 1 – 4 p.m. on Monday, 5 December.

For questions or information, contact communication@darden.virginia.edu or a member of the Communication team.

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