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  2010 Winning Team: DooDad
 

U-M Students 'Beat the Bag' to Reinvent the Pooper Scooper

1/3/2011 --

Students from business, engineering, and art and design collaborate to produce a clean and sustainable option for dog's best friend.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—What's so special about a pooper scooper? Don't most folks just use a plastic grocery bag? Ten teams of students at the University of Michigan proved otherwise as they delivered new solutions for the 21st-century pet owner as part of the 2010 Integrated Product Development (IPD) course.

IPD is offered by Ross, the College of Engineering, and the School of Art & Design, and is sponsored by the Tauber Institute for Global Operations. For the duration of the course, student teams from each of the three areas of the University collaborate to research, design, manufacture, price, and market a prototype of a fully functional, customer-ready product. At the end of the course IPD teams pit their products against one another in an online and campus trade show. Consumers vote on the viability and practicality of each product and campaign.

"The class requires three different worldviews to converge into one effort," says Bill Lovejoy, the Raymond T. Perring Family Professor of Business. He launched the course at Ross in 1995. "The engineers couldn't do it alone, the designers couldn't do it alone, and the business students couldn't do it alone. Interdisciplinary classes are talked about, but this class brings it into high relief."

Lovejoy teaches IPD alongside Shaun Jackson, who holds appointments in Ross, the School of Art & Design, and the Taubman College of Architecture. In 2009 the pair received the University's Teaching Innovation Prize, which honors the most original approaches to teaching and creativity in the classroom.

Over the years IPD students have created all sorts of innovative products, from urban shopping carts to the "one-handed kitchen." This year the professors challenged their cross-disciplinary teams to "beat the bag" and produce a new type of pooper scooper to hygienically collect and transport waste during a dog walk. The price point was $19.95.

"I've never put so much work into one class," says second-year MBA student Lindsay Kritzer. "It's the best experience I've ever had. It's given me an opportunity to actually make something myself rather than just market a product that someone else came up with."

Kritzer collaborated with teammates from engineering and art and design to produce the Caddy, a pooper scooper that makes use of a barrel-shaped plastic-molded grip into which a plastic grocery bag is inserted, enabling the pet owner to scoop Fido's poop without touching the mess.

"The best part about the Caddy is that it has pouches to hold your keys, phone, more plastic bags, and even some dog treats or a ball," she says. "Most of the time when I'm out with my dog I don't have pants with pockets, so the Caddy serves multiple purposes. Plus, when you're done picking up your dog's mess, you can store the plastic bag in a Velcro pouch until you get to the nearest trash can."

When asked about the Caddy's future, Kritzer replies, "I'm taking an entrepreneurial-heavy course load next semester and may well try to launch the product. We designed it to fill a need that isn't currently met in the market and I think we have a great product."

In keeping with the Ross School's commitment to sustainability, three of the student teams designed pooper scoopers using post-consumer recyclable materials (think cardboard), which also provide tasteful holders for your pooch's mess and allow you to be environmentally conscious at the same time. The cleverly named DooDad, billed as "number one for number two," took top honors at the 2010 competition. The product was touted as "a better, sustainable and cleaner alternative to the plastic bag." For $19.95, consumers receive 60 bio-degradable DooDads, which come in four logo colors.

Another notable entry was the Pooch Pouch, a glove-like picker-upper that includes many hidden features. There's a pocket for plastic bags, a pocket for doggie treats, a carabineer clip to hang the mitt from one's leash or belt loop, and a lining made from microfiber fabric. The lining doubles as a towel to clean the pooch's feet before entering the house. The team added friction pads to their mitt giving the user extra control in using a plastic bag and, as Master's Industrial & Operations Engineering student Tracie Teo put it, "your hand is insulated from feeling the temperature and texture of the poop, which allowed for a simple and yet effective improvement to the most commonly used hand-in-bag technique."

A stylish take on the whole process of disposing of doggy doo-doo was the Canine Canteen, which looks more like a coffee travel mug and boasts that you don't need to look like you're carrying any offensive poop. The high-tech Canteen is made from fully recycled aluminum, holds a small roll of the biodegradable bags, and "cleverly conceals its contents."

Review all the 2010 IPD entries.

Learn more about past IPD challenges.

—Diana Crossley



For more information, contact:
Diana Crossley, (734) 647-2210, dianak@umich.edu