New Product Design and Business Development Project

Keeping Our Lakes Clean

Friday, October 11, 2019



A quintessential summer day in Minnesota is one spent on the lake. Whether it’s fishing, waterskiing, or just cruising on a pontoon, residents certainly take advantage of our 10,000-plus lakes.

Without proper care, however, boaters can accidentally introduce aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels or milfoil to lakes, harming the ecosystem and economy.

Edgar Rudberg and Mark Apfelbacher aim to prevent that with their “CD3 Station,” a waterless cleaning system. These stationary systems are installed at boat launches to enable boaters to quickly clean their watercraft to avoid spreading invasive species. The product has proven to be a success, but some customers wanted a portable, off-grid unit instead. That’s when they turned to the Carlson School for help.

Collaborating on design

The New Product Design & Business Development (NPDBD) course, a partnership between the Carlson School of Management and the College of Science & Engineering, brings together business students and engineers to work on real-world product development projects for small companies like CD3 to corporate giants like 3M.

“The goal of the program is to expose students to the product development process, while providing companies with a working prototype and business plan they can run with,” says Dan Forbes, associate professor of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship and NPDBD program head.

Engineering meets business

Teams are comprised of six people, each a mix of engineering and business students. This helps everyone, says Trevor Born, a student working on the CD3 project as an elective for his Master’s in Strategic Communications degree.

“So much of the academic experience involves being paired with a group of people who all share a very similar professional background and have similar aspirations,” he says. “Yet, in the working world, almost no teams work like that. Having the chance to work with a cross-functional team actually builds skills that you need to make anything of substance happen in the workplace.”

The CD3 project

Like all other NPDBD projects from the course, the work with CD3 started in the fall semester with an analysis to determine whether the company’s product met a market need and was viable. Then, in the spring semester, the team developed an alpha prototype and business development plan. Students met regularly with Rudberg and Apfelbacher to ensure everyone’s needs were met.

Rudberg praised the students for their energy, passion, and knowledge.

“The product design showed excellent out-of-the-box thinking,” he says. “We were very pleased with the results.” Everyone, from the students to the instructors to the company sponsors, agrees that working on real business projects is key to the NPDBD course’s success.

“There is a huge benefit to working with an actual business rather than an in-class-only project,” says Arthur Gryczman, ’21 MBA (expected). “It is exactly what you’d expect: You cannot replace the classroom for real world experiences. This course will give you that real world experience, guaranteed.”

Fall 2019 alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Fall 2019 alumni magazine

The Carlson School is celebrating its centennial. In this issue, we examine our storied history (and the people that made it possible) and look forward to the next 100 years of excellence.

Fall 2019 table of contents