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Engineering a Cleaner Shoe

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a final presentation given by engineering students in RMU’s Product and Tool Design course, taught by Dr. Priya Manohar (see photo, standing at left).

The presentation, which took place in the university’s Hale Center, was the culmination of an interdisciplinary project with Dr. Cathleen Jones’ Marketing Research course.

Earlier in the semester, students from both courses brainstormed some new product ideas and chose two ideas to research. After that, the marketing students surveyed people about the ideas and reported the results to the engineering students and a panel of businesspeople, none of which was Donald Trump, who at the time was preoccupied with more pressing issues. The panelists then recommended which of the two ideas they believed showed the greatest potential.

Based on these recommendations, the engineering students chose to develop the “Boot Broom,” which was originally called the “Super Sopper.” Although both names feature alliteration, which is always nice, personally I’m partial to the latter option. Then again, I had nothing to do with the project.

The Boot Broom is an innovative device for cleaning one’s footwear before entering one’s house. It features two parts: 1) a standard door mat, and 2) a not-so-standard dirt/mud scraping off thingamabob, which works sort of like a shoe car-wash, just without the water, soap, conveyor belt, and those guys at the end who “dry” your car off with their soaking-wet towels.

In developing the prototype (that’s fancy engineer lingo for a working model), engineering students Casey Coughlin, Brendan Mathers, Wade Moneypenny, and Charles Story Jr. (see photo) utilized Gantt Charts, Needs-and-Metrics Matrices, Functional Analyses, and other cool-sounding scientific tools we writers never get to use. During the presentation, they shared their findings from the project and what they learned throughout the process.

Will we ever see the Boot Broom in your local hardware or home improvement store, or maybe on an episode of Oprah when she gives out her favorite things to all those screaming women (they frighten me)? Who knows? But if we do, I can tell people that I was there to witness its unveiling and then to blog about it, none of which, by the way, qualifies me to receive any percentage of the profits from sales.

At least that’s what my lawyer told me.

Written by Valentine J. Brkich

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