Utica Community Schools Center for Science and Industry students present the products that they designed to be viable and sellable to professionals and peers at the Motor City Trade Show Dec. 5.

Utica Community Schools Center for Science and Industry students present the products that they designed to be viable and sellable to professionals and peers at the Motor City Trade Show Dec. 5.

Photo provided by Jennifer Swanchara

UCS students host their own Motor City Trade Show

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published December 19, 2023


UTICA/SHELBY TOWNSHIP/STERLING HEIGHTS — On Dec. 5, Utica Community Schools Center for Science and Industry sophomores were challenged to create a viable, sellable product with original branding and marketing.

The event, called the “Motor City Trade Show,” featured motorized products that the students designed. They pitched their products to event attendees. As a career and technical education program, engineering, marketing and human resources professionals were invited to provide feedback on the students’ designs, marketing plans, presentation skills and overall professionalism.

Greg Feldkamp, English teacher at the Utica Center for Science and Industry, said 23 groups of sophomore students created projects for the event. Groups consisted of three to four students, with one or two electronics students and one or two digital media students.

“For the product itself, we like to keep the parameters fairly open,” Feldkamp said. “So, the design challenge was, ‘Design a workable, usable, sellable product for a specific market.’ From there, they defined their own parameters such as their buyers, their market and so on. We like to keep the parameters wide open, because we believe that in order to flex their creative muscles, the students need somewhat open parameters to work within.

“No two products are the same; we encourage them to come up with unique ideas,” he said.

It’s a design and build challenge.

“They were tasked with designing, building, branding and marketing a unique product with a motor in it. The electronics component was the need to use that motor within the product, then the multimedia students made the product look as good as possible, created a poster with the slogan the group came up with for the product, and came up with a marketing plan and promotional strategies for the product. Each group created three logos, and our attendees are giving feedback on the logos. By creating at least three logos and getting other peoples’ feedback, oftentimes the one that the student thinks is the best is not the one that the public thinks is the best, which I think is a great learning experience,” he said.

He said that Dec. 5 was the showcase, the trade show where they were debuting their products to the world.

“We’ve got parents, community members and business partners here today to give the students an authentic audience. It gives the students the opportunity to really see their work shine. As their teachers, we can give the students all sorts of feedback, and oftentimes it is effective, but when they get feedback from adults outside of the school, it makes everything so real and valuable. The goal of the project is the idea of effective collaboration and communication. You can communicate all day and not effectively communicate. They learn through trial and error, and it’s a safe place to make mistakes and still have confidence at the end of everything,” he said.

Jacob Vachon, a 10th grader at Stevenson High School and a Utica Center for Science and Industry engineering student, said his group made a product to dry the inside of a water bottle when you take it out of the dishwasher and there’s still water inside it.

“We made it with a fan; you then put the water bottle upside down in a tray and the fan blows up into it to get the water out. The product is called ‘Aqua-Gone.’  I’m in electronics, so I designed the circuit along with another electronics student. We were responsible for building the product,” he said.

He said he thinks it went well overall, and he learned how to improvise and build without direction but by figuring it out.

“Building the product, it was stressful but fun to be free to design it and build it ourselves without being told what to do. Today we are doing the trade show, and we are marketing our product to the public. We have had interest. I like when peoples’ faces light up and they get the product,” he said.

He said what he’s learned was team communication — the importance of being on the same page with the other group members.

Chloe Navaroli, who is in the 10th grade at Henry Ford II High School and a Utica Center for Science and Industry digital media student, said her group’s product, “Christmas Carnival,” is a Christmas-themed truth or dare game equipped with a Ferris wheel.

“We liked the idea of the Ferris wheel spinning, but we wanted to incorporate Christmas into it and make it into an easy-to-understand game. My favorite part of the project was getting to design your own product. Yes, you’re using a Ferris wheel that’s already made, but you’re tweaking it to make it how you want it to be.

“A project like this is important, because for us students, we’re learning the basics of business and selling a product,” she said.