Santa Clara University


BMW Contest Drives Creativity

Crash Test Dummies win BMW product pitch contest

Six multidisciplinary teams of SCU students recently participated in a whirlwind competition that put their innovation and entrepreneurship skills to the test: They were given only 24 hours to conceive and pitch a new product concept for BMW. At stake were bragging rights and a $500 grand prize.

“The event was a focused, industry-inspired challenge,” said Christopher Kitts, director of the School of Engineering’s Robotics Systems Laboratory. “It required students to draw upon their engineering knowledge in order to develop a product concept involving the BMW Mini vehicle (and real-time data available from the car), a smartphone (for personal communications), and Internet connectivity (adding a networked capability).  In doing so, they had to think creatively, focus on bringing value to a specific type of customer, and consider business issues.”

Just 22 hours after the contest rules were presented, teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges consisting of BMW engineers, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. When all was said and done, Crash Test Dummies walked away with the top honors. The team, comprised of four sophomores—two mechanical engineering majors, a biology major/bioengineering minor, and a combined sciences major/psychology minor—proposed a software program, EcoDrive, which would encourage green, efficient driving through fun incentives.

“We were really impressed with the creativity of all the teams and concepts,” said Jeff Zabel (BSME ’01), Senior Engineer at the BMW Group Technology Office USA.  “This project helped us quickly realize the potential of iPhone applications developed specifically for in-vehicle use and it was great to work with all the students, faculty and staff at SCU again.”

The contest was made possible through the School of Engineering’s partnerships with BMW and the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network, which awarded a $50,000 grant to expand upon the school’s entrepreneurship and innovation education for undergraduate students. “We cannot wait to see where our application goes,” said Kadee Mardula of the Crash Test Dummies. “Even if it doesn’t take off, it was an amazing experience to work on a fun project outside of class and see the business side of design.” Kitts is enthusiastic about the competition, as well. “The BMW Product Pitch Contest was a huge success,” he said; “we plan to conduct several more events like this over the next year as part of our KEEN program efforts.”

Read more about the contest and view photos.

Read a related article in SCU's Sustainability Update.