November 8, 2017

Collaboration aimed at developing STEM education tool using rapid innovation

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University’s Industrial Design Senior Capstone is collaborating with SDI Innovations to develop STEM education tools on a semester-long project with the aim to develop a tangible and market-ready product to be commercialized by SDI Innovations’ resources.

TJ Kim, associate professor of industrial design in Purdue’s Department of Art and Design, and his senior capstone industrial design students are teaming with SDI’s David Sanders, director of product development, and Ty Martorano, a product development specialist.

“We want to innovate the teaching styles in K-12 schools with the STEM education tool,” Kim said.

SDI Innovations is a local entrepreneurial parent company assisting daughter companies, such as School Datebooks, Eventlink and Ag Printers, in the development of technology-based products. Similarly, the company is collaborating with the Industrial Design Capstone to develop and commercialize a startup producing STEM education kits and workbooks.

Kim collects STEM data from Burnett Creek Elementary School in West Lafayette. He studies K-12 students’ reactions to STEM education products.

“Right now, many schools emphasize input tools, like iPads, but technology-based aids, like 3-D printers, are important in the classroom too,” Kim said. “We plan to develop a marketable product that can and will be used in schools.”

SDI Innovations’ current clients include 12,000 schools. SDI Innovations also markets to over 100,000 schools and ranks within the top 9 percent of Amazon sellers.

“Here at SDI Innovations, we have the core capabilities, such as a big sales force, international manufacturing and world-class customer service,” Sanders said. “With that, we can develop startups from great ideas and use our capabilities to help them succeed.”

Purdue’s Industrial Design program ranks ninth nationally. This partnership will allow Kim’s students to gain real-world experience in the design and entrepreneurial aspects of the industry.

“The knowledge and experiences students need to succeed in the industry is the most valuable part of their education,” Kim said. “I want my students to be able to use this real-world experience that mirrors industry practices.”

Sanders, a former creative manager/toy team leader for Disney Consumer Products, agreed and said the senior’s quality of work and professionalism impressed him.

“For both SDI and the students, this project intersects art and engineering technology,” he said. “We want to encourage hands-on learning and creative thinking.”

Kim said the high risks of an individual entrepreneur could discourage students’ participation. Because of the partnership, the students can explore their entrepreneurial interests in a lower-risk environment.

“Great solutions in the form of products are not owned by experts. It is the systems that experts establish to scale-up a company, hold market share and increase its profitability that restrict its innovation," Kim said. "Conversely, the individual, un-constrained by being an expert, systems, and protocols, has the ability to rethink the current solution and implant products that change the market.”

By spring 2018, SDI and the Industrial Design’s partnership will result in a STEM product ready for market. For this semester, two milestones will occur marking different stages of progress.

“We will meet on Nov. 9 for a midpoint review,” Martorano said. “Then on Dec. 5, students will give final presentations at SDI Innovations.”

Kim said he hopes the partnership extends beyond this initial engagement with products like 3-D printing instructions books.

“Everything we want to do can be done locally with my students or SDI Innovations or Burnett Creek,” Kim said. “Everyone in this project wants to work within our community.”

In another project, SDI Innovations is working with Purdue’s Engineering/Technology Education graduate class to create and develop STEM curriculum. SDI Innovations is also actively involved with the Purdue Foundry.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

Sources: Ty Martorano,

TJ Kim,

David Sanders,

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