MADMEC: A student's experience on both sides

MADMEC has concluded another successful year. I've had the pleasure to participate as a judge for the past three years in connection with my role as university relations manager at the Saint-Gobain Research North America R&D center. I was also fortunate to participate in (and win!) the MADMEC competition as I was finishing graduate school. 

My own contest team prototyped a color changing roof that is reflective white in the summer and absorbing dark in the winter. During my time in the competition, an early design review with faculty and entrepreneurs was a fantastic experience in pitching ideas and receiving feedback. One piece of advice that stuck with us was to start with the end customer in mind. Does somebody want this product? Is it feasible to prototype in this timeframe? Could it be cost-effective? This framework made the competition feel more real than my research or classes. The problem and the solution were unknown when we started, and we had to anticipate what the customer (I.e. the judge) would need in the future, just like engineers are doing every day at Saint-Gobain.