On the Nordic Track

A year-long project ends in an exciting gala for Pace students at Aalto University, Finland.

Finland is known as many things: as the land of the midnight sun; as a place for cold winters; and, on the business side, as a place for top-notch design, the best in high-level technology, and a world-class education system. In April, Jonathan Hill, DPS, associate dean of the Seidenberg School, along with Program Manager Wilfredo Pena led a team of four Pace undergraduates to take part in an international, interdisciplinary project at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. The team consisted of computer science majors Julie Gill ’12, Jeremy Pease ’12, and Zahid Mahir ’15, and English Language and Literature major Nina Freeman ’12.

The program, known as the Product Development Project (PDP), is a year-long intensive design sprint in which student teams develop real products for corporate sponsors including Ericsson, Panasonic, Kone, and many more. The companies provide funding for the students to develop a prototype of an actual product—conducting field research, purchasing supplies, and attending the capstone PDP Gala where the students demonstrate their projects. The program brings together students from Finland, Australia, China, India, Japan, and six other European countries.

“It was a fascinating experience to work with   world-class designers and engineers,” says Gill, who was a member of the Innovator team sponsored by Kone Elevators (similar to Otis in America). Innovator’s goal was to develop a new, interactive experience for elevator passengers, which Gill helped program. Their booth at the Gala included a full scale elevator model, which featured the touchscreen system they had developed.

“PDP is great because it gives students real world experience in working on products that are actually made according to the needs of a company,” says Mahir, whose team Hometelligence (sponsored by Panasonic) created a hi-tech pillow that would regulate itself according to the users sleeping patterns. Other projects included: the Be Careless team sponsored by Ericsson, to which Pease belonged, which developed an online tracking technology to help locate easily lost objects like keys, glasses, and bags; and ABBdroid, sponsored by global engineering giant ABB, which built a mobile app for the Android operating system to be used as a sales tool by ABB’s global sales force. English major Freeman used her skills on that team to enhance the content as well as her design skills.

“The Aalto students are talented designers and engineers, the kinds of professionals that our Seidenberg students will be working with in their careers,” says Hill who accompanied the Pace students to the year-end Gala in Finland. “When you include the international factor with time changes and cultural differences with the reality of meeting the needs of a real, corporate client, you have the ingredients for an incredibly powerful learning experience.”