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IPD students cultivate a garden—and a community

Students in Lehigh’s Integrated Product Development (IPD) capstone course spent the spring semester knee-deep in well water, potting soil and feasibility studies.

It was all part of a semester-long project to come up with innovative, sustainable solutions to South Side Bethlehem’s “food insecurity” problem—a lack of fresh, healthy foods. Working alongside design arts and engineering majors, College of Business and Economics (CBE) students put their skills to good use to tackle a real-world problem in their own backyard.

At the end of the five months, students presented their findings and solutions to a panel of corporate executives, CBE professors and their peers at a May event in the Rauch Business Center.

Putting down roots

After visiting Broughal Middle School, CBE students knew there must be a gap in access to low-cost fruits and vegetables on the Southside.

“Someone showed an eggplant to a group of Broughal students and they had no idea what it was,” says Alyssa Siano ’12, a business information systems and supply chain management major. “That just shows how important this issue is.”

Early in the semester, IPD students were split into five teams: two greenhouse teams, who addressed the possibility of installing compact greenhouses on Goodman Campus; two power teams, who searched for a local power source to provide heat and electricity to the greenhouses; and an irrigation team, who explored ways to collect and distribute water over and within the greenhouses.

Student teams were sponsored by John Ochs, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics and director of the IPD program; the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation; and the Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders. Through trial and error, feasibility studies, design mock-ups and cost analyses, each team came up with a solution to the problem—and a way to provide the South Side with a brighter future.

Kyle Keyes ’11, who just graduated with a supply chain management degree, stressed the importance of hands-on, experiential projects like this.

“It’s very beneficial to work on a real project from inception to implementation,” Keyes says. “When you are involved throughout the whole process, you get a first-hand look at all of the challenges that are involved in developing a product, as well as ways to work through these problems. I gained a whole host of skills, including the benefits of effective delegation.”

Keyes said that it was also rewarding to work with students from all three of Lehigh’s undergraduate colleges.  

“It is this sort of cross-functional team that we will be working with in our future careers, so the experience is critical,” Keyes says. “Being able to communicate with students from other educational backgrounds is such a useful skill.”

Recent graduate Latoya Josephs ’11 agrees. “Working with students from other disciplines was a great experience because it highlighted the importance of integrating all parts of an organization when creating a new product or idea,” Josephs says.

With this experience under their belts, CBE students are not only well-prepared for success in the workplace, they are also able to apply their skills and experience to real-world problems in their communities and beyond. 
Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2011
Supply Chain Management majors Latoya Josephs ’11 and Kyle Keyes ’11 exhibit their group's irrigation solution.
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