Ohio State had some great representation in the International Housewares Association (IHA) 23rd annual Student Design Competition in January. Of a record-breaking 325 entrants, four Ohio State students were recognized –out of 16 total awards– by a respected jury in a blind judging process of their submitted written materials, sketches, engineering drawings and photos. Jean Paul Pompeo won a third-place award with his product, Lean-It Ladder. Caterina Rizzonni, Ashley Fenton and Myrna Lewis received honorable mentions for their respective products.
The Student Design Competition’s annual challenge to students is to redesign a current housewares product to meet the needs of the future, or to create a concept for a new product. Winning projects are selected for their innovation, understanding of production and marketing principles, and quality of entry materials.
Students are judged solely for their skills in this competition, which has become known as the gold standard for college-level design contests. In this real-world exercise, students must identify user needs and opportunity spaces in the marketplace, research competitive available products, test models with users and consider production issues.
Pompeo, a junior industrial design major, entered the competition as part of his first-semester studio course and was thrilled to learn of his third place finish.
“A ladder isn’t a traditional housewares product, so I feel especially proud of my design,” Pompeo said. “Ohio State’s faculty and other design students have been very helpful in bolstering my creativity by providing me with feedback, ideas and other things that alone I would not have been able to think of.”
Pompeo’s studio course began with him identifying a target user for his product — those ages 65 and over. Upon researching senior citizens and the household, he uncovered potential problems they face that lead to difficulties, such as becoming shorter over time, having balance issues and having a very high rate of serious injury when falling. Pompeo discovered that seniors needed a step ladder that was more stable, easier to store and easier to help them reach things in the highest areas of their kitchens. Lean-It Ladder was Pompeo’s solution.
Lean-It Ladder helps people conveniently reach the highest areas in their kitchen without risking injury. The ladder is slim enough to store in the kitchen and brings people closer to high shelves by using the kitchen counter as a support instead of solely relying on a ladder’s back legs. The steps can fold up for easy storage, helping this product overcome the typical large and bulky design of traditional ladders.
“I realized later,” Pompeo said, “that this product helps not only seniors, but everybody who struggles to reach the highest shelves in a standard kitchen in the USA.”
Whether or not this ladder will be put on the market is a question Pompeo is still asking himself. He has submitted the ladder to the patent office of Ohio State in hopes that it will be patented and manufactured. If not, Pompeo said the IHA show he will attend in Chicago in March will allow him to network. His project will be displayed there, and companies will be able to discuss their interest and possible manufacturing.
Ohio State IHA Honorable Mentions
Caterina Rizzoni, Safesling, hip dysplasia sling system
Ashley Fenton, Rootlet, outlet plug safety holder
Myrna Lewis, Cool Down, spectator gear/seating cooler cart
By Tatiana Tomley, ASC Communications student