EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, Inc. (CCAT) used a new, fast-paced, product development approach – a Design-a-Thon – to help Hartford inventor Donald Brown accelerate steps towards bringing his innovative technology for funeral homes closer to reality.
The Design-a-Thon concept focuses on the design, hardware, materials, and manufacturing feasibility of a product in an intensive, accelerated team activity. The goal is to quickly deliver critical information and extensive research that will spur development towards commercializing a new product.
The Design-a-Thon process fills a void,” said Tom Maloney, Ph.D., CCAT Chief Technology Officer. “Most start-up companies do not have the expertise and resources to devise and execute a product development process. CCAT’s Design-a-Thon is intended to quickly obtain specific engineering information to assess the viability of a product for the commercial marketplace. This information guides the first go/no-go milestone for the entrepreneur.”
According to Maloney, most corporations institute a formal product development process to establish the design and manufacturing plan for a product and a business case to justify investment to develop it. The process includes go/no-go decision points for continued investment to bring the product to market.
Led by Dr. Maloney, CCAT’s Design-a-Thon team included six summer interns, an industry product development expert David Fazzina, and inventor Donald Brown, a lifelong Hartford resident and former fireman.
The team was tasked with creating an executive summary of the concept, requirements, and product design; developing a manufacturing plan; conducting a preliminary cost analysis; and outlining the next steps needed to help turn his idea into a reality.
Student interns, who are pursuing degrees in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, physics, materials science engineering, environmental science, and computer science at the University of Connecticut, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Widener University, conducted the intensive research. They examined and challenged previous prototypes and production process plans to refine the design and create new solutions.
“The CCAT team took my ideas on paper and designed a product summary within a few weeks. By combining my ideas with input from the design team, we developed new solutions and the next step for my product,” said Donald Brown, inventor. “The next step is to create a prototype to check the design for structural strength, size, and functionality. This will hopefully lead to increased project funding. “It’s a unique idea for a product that we need.”
“Mr. Brown was exceptional in that he had the product conceptual design and manufacturing plan elements initiated and it was quickly determined that investment in his product concept is justifiable,”
Maloney said. “The whole project took 4-6 weeks. It went that fast because Mr. Brown came in with major portions of the product already laid out.”
“Brown wants to produce and manufacture the product in Hartford’s North End promise zone, where there are several factories that could be used to help revitalize the area. The workforce is there – it’s just trying to get them involved,” he said.
“I would highly recommend CCAT and the Design-a-Thon process,” Brown said. “Dr. Maloney and the team reaffirmed my design concepts. The Design-a-Thon’s combination of processes, solutions, innovation, and commercialization planning have given me confidence to continue pursuing this project. My desire is to give back to my community through this work – to create jobs and opportunities for the people of Hartford.”