A Putter Metamorphosis
Puts New Spin on Profit

by Robert Sanders

At a mini-trade show in May at Bechtel Engineering Center students competed for a grade and the best consumer product spin-off of a company that makes only one thing--an electric golf putt returner.

Competing teams created display booths, video infomercials and World Wide Web marketing to sell their innovative ideas, which included an automatic stamping machine, a syringe decapitator and a nutcracker.

At the show, students vied to sell their new product ideas to a fictitious client company, Golf-At-Home, Inc.

The premise is that Golf-At-Home wants to transform its flagship product, the electric putt returner, into an entirely new, non-sports related product, because of cutthroat competition in its niche market.

The course came to a dramatic conclusion as each of four companies demonstrated its product and gave a formal presentation to its client.

Judges determined which company received the coveted (albeit fictional) long-term joint venture contract to spin off products from the putt returner.

The trade show is a yearly event for students in IEOR 140, an undergraduate course introducing engineering students to product conception, design, manufacturing and marketing.

Led by course instructor David Busing and teaching assistant Andrew Ryan, the nine-student groups organize into virtual corporations and set about the task of creating a new product from the ground up.

This includes designing, building and testing a working prototype, negotiating with suppliers, developing a cost-competitive plan for mass production and preparing a professional trade-show presentation.

The winner of the coveted 10-year joint venture contract was Inspire! Inc., makers of the Knacker Nutcracker, "for their concise marketing plan (delivered eloquently, if forcefully, by Han-Shen 'Il Duce' Yuan) and innovative use of multiple parts of the putt returner."



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