Last week, one of my classmates and I in the business/entrepreneurship class were working on the class project. After we finished our work, he tossed out this remark - "Miss Outlier, I was thinking. I have an idea I want to run by you."
I love when people toss out that kind of remark. Well, when CERTAIN people toss out that remark. This particular person I have really come to respect over the semester, (which is rare for me given my historical experience with the MBA students...). When I hear "I have a thought" from people I respect, my ears perk up. It's often those off-hand ideas that turn out to be something interesting.
In this case, he had an idea for a little widget he wanted to make. Basically, it's a specialty case for an iPhone. I thought his idea was rather neat (not going to change the world, but a cool little consumer product). He asked me how you would go about making that idea into a real product. I said, well, you need to make a prototype.
How would you do that? he asked.
Well, I said, it's actually not hard - I have the tools in my lab. I can have you a sample by next class period.
The key is that it's all in the tools - if you have the right equipment, projects become easy. What he wanted would be made out of polymer and/or rubber. In my lab I have a laser cutter which can cut polymers, and a waterjet which cuts rubber. And I have a setup and materials for casting rubber, and a micromill for making the mold for casting. And in my Craftsman toolbox, I just happen to have a variety of 6" by 6" squares of rubber. (I had a product development class a while ago, and we had to use rubber for the class project. We didn't know what kind of rubber we needed, so we bought a variety pack. I, of course, kept the extras. It wasn't like anybody else wanted rubber scraps... but see, now it might be useful!)
Figure: Variety pack of rubber leftovers. Just the sort of thing that helps me proudly uphold the engineering stereotype.
My classmate didn't know about all that, so my answer came as a surprise. He was incredulous. "Really?" he exclaimed, "Just like that? You just make it?"
Yes indeedy. That's my job. To make stuff.
"Man, I picked the wrong major." he said.
Yeah, that's what you get when you hang out too long in the business world - you get disconnected from actually PRODUCING something real. Instead of, you know, all that NETWORKING you spend your time on.
Now normally I wouldn't spend my time on a side project like this, but he was so excited and impressed that I could actually make a sample of his idea, that I kinda want to prove that I can. A bit of pride on the line here. :) It's the birth of an idea...