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ICT innovation / Product Design and Development

Lecturers and Tutors

  • Lecturers:
  • Tutors:
    • Bernardo Villalba Frías (PhD student in Embedded Systems),
    • Stefano Tranquillini (Phd in Service Design in Trento, CTO and co-founder


Course Objectives

This course illustrates the key steps of product design and developement and guide students, forming multi-disciplinary teams, into the development of a “product” as opposed to just a “project”.

We often see nice proof-of-concept research demonstration of useful tools in magazines or on web-sites. What does it take to make this a product? Everybody can sell a beautiful concept if you don't have to build it. Also anybody can build a amazing device if you don't have to sell it. This challenging course combines the two requirements. Students have to talk to customers to understand what features are relally needed and for what costs. Students have also to make sure they can actually deliver the technological solution (that the customers wanted).

For example, you can design scarecrow drone that flies over the crops with a predefined set-up. Unless you talk to farmers you'll never realize that random walk is necessary to actually scare the crows. Further, automatic charging as well as automated landing by computer vision and machine learning are mission critical, so that the farmer doesn't need to be there. All this with cheap mechanical, electronic, and computing solutions as the budget is extremely tight. You might have invented the idea of an iPod-style to provide news to the blind and your first technical solutions might have been to use Braille. Unless you talked (as the Joni group did) to the blind association, you are not going to discover that the majority of your customers in Italy have become blind later in life and a product that requires learning Braille at 50s-and-more is not going to be a great success. It is great for campers, to have an anti-theft device in your tent. Yet, what if it starts blasting if you just put a rucksack in the wrong position in your own tent?

All these products, and many more, were built by students participating to this course.

Overarching Learning Objectives

  • Creativity: How to solve problems when not all steps are completely specified (this what you should try to do with your design/architectural result)
  • Intellectual Transformation: How to transform an idea into a product (the first “brainstorming” step is your research canvas, the last one is the final product) by using conceptual tools from economics, mechatronic engineering, and computer science.
  • Leadership: Organize yourselves into a team and arrive to make a final product (you should try to leverage on each other’s competences)
  • Making value judgement: Decide which parts are important and which are not also on the basis of ethical and social considerations.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Regular and active participation in the teaching activities offered by the course (lectures, supervised and indipendent group work in multi-disciplinary teams) will enable students to:

  • Learn key steps of Product Design and Development (PD&D)
  • Create a product concept which will be presented as concept's idea canvas to illustrate the key strong points on their product and their interaction with stakeholders
  • Design a detailed architecture product architecture and present it in a poster explaining how their product will work and which would be their strong point
  • Produce a final product as each team will have a small budget for hardware/software and will have to actually demonstrate a working product
  • Market their concept idea as the teams will interact with stakeholders to make sure that the product that they intend to build has actually a market.

This course should allow students to experience the creativity, intellectual transformation, leadership and value judgements skills which take to transform an idea into a working and sellable product.


The course requires attendance of its team works and presentations. Students who cannot attend should contact the course coordinator to check whether they can attend the course. We expect each student in the groups to know the theory from his or her Bachelor (being it Economics and Management, Computer Science, Electronical and Mechanical Engineering).

Course Content

  • Lectures on Product Design and Development (PD&D)
    • Introduction
    • Product Specifications
    • Concept Design (Mostly concept selection and concept testing)
    • Product Architecture (Software and Mechanical Architectures)
    • Prototyping and robust design
    • System Verification, system testing, and design for manufacturing,
    • Patents and Intellectual Property
  • Review and Feedback sessions of students proposal for each of the three main deliverable
    • Concept Canvas (one review, mid March)
    • Product Architecture (two reviews, beginning and end of April)
    • Product Proof of Concept (two reviews, late May)
  • Guest Lectures of CEOs, CTOs, and Chairpersons of start-ups and companies to discuss their experience

Teaching Methods and Learning Activities

The instructors will use:

  • highly interactive lecture-style presentation during which students will be required to actively participate;
  • lab exercises given to multi-disciplinary groups of students, who must discuss, analyze and present to the class the results achieved. A typical group includes students a degree in Economics and Management, Computer Science, Electronical and Telecommunication Engineering, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Assessment Methods and Criteria

This course is normally 6ECTS credits for MSc students enrolled in Trento or for EIT/ICTLabs students joining Trento as exit students. For other students the credits are calculated as follows:

  • EIT Students (9ECTS). This includes the Product Design and Development (PD&D) Part + EIT Summer School Grades
  • DISI “ICT Innovation Students” (9ECTS). This requires passing the PD&D and writing a technical report on the product architecture and implementation
  • DEM MAIN Students (8ECTS). This requires passing the PD&D and writing a business report on the product customers and markets

Grading of the PD&D Part is organized as follows:

  • Concept's Idea Canvas Poster Session (up to 10 grade points)
  • Product design and architecture Poster Session (up to 10 grade points)
  • Product prototype and Demo Session (up to 15 grade points)
  • Final Material Presentation (up to 4 grade points)

Critical to the successful achievement of the maximum grade is the ability of the group to demonstrate that they have talked to stakeholders (as taught in the course) and that their technical solution actually meet those very requirements that they have reported.

Reference and Bibliographic Material

Karl T. Ulrich and Steven D. Eppinger. Product Design and Development. 5th edition, Irwin McGraw-Hill, 2012.

There is also an eBook with a subset of the chapters that is used as a textbook for Karl Ulrich's Product Design on-line Course on Coursera for 30$. You can go to McGraw-Hill on-line shop and then search for Karl Ulrich or ISBN:9781308099064.

Sample Projects from Past Years

Course Material of Previous Years

Current year

Product Idea

Students are free to chose their product idea. See the past courses for possible suggestions and ideas.


  • Thursday - Afternoon
  • Friday - Morning (Typically 9:30-12:30 - 9:00-13:00 on the Show Room days)


Date Topic Slides Other Material

To be defined when the calendar is available (around January)

Students Exercises and Feedback Sessions

Date Topic Information
Mid March Concept Feedback Sessions Presentation of your draft concept ideas
Mid April Design Feedback Sessions Presentations of your draft product architecture
End April Design Feedback Sessions
Early May Define Your Hardware Lists Each team should specify a final list of material that they need to buy to assemble their product
End May Product Feedback Sessions Presentations and discussion on key issues of your product
Early June Product Feedback Sessions

Major Grading Milestones

Date Topic Grade Points Description
Late March Concept's Idea Canvas Show at EIT CLC 10/30 Each team will produce a concept's idea canvas to clarify the key strong points on their product
Early May System Design Poster Show at EIT CLC 10/30 Teams will produce a detailed architecture and a poster explaining how their product will work
Mid June Product ShowRoom 15/30 Each team will have a small budget for hardware/software and will have to actually present a working product
ict_innovation.txt · Last modified: 2021/12/03 18:41 (external edit)