College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

New courses give Cyclone Engineers product development toolkit and experience

In a new course launching this fall, successful entrepreneur Jim Fay (’74 chem engr) will teach Iowa State engineering students the skills needed to do innovative intrapreneurial or entrepreneurial product development.

“Entrepreneurial product development engineering is exciting, rewarding and real. It is the growth engine of companies both small and large. It is the process that brings new ideas to life,” said James Fay (’74 chem engr), accomplished entrepreneur, consultant and instructor for the College of Engineering’s new course called Entrepreneurial Product Development Engineering (E-PdE). “If you want to learn how to invent, develop and turn an idea into a successful business, E-PdE is the course to take.”

Starting this fall, Iowa State engineering students will have a new and unique opportunity to build their entrepreneurial skills. The first course, ENGR/IE 430X: E-PdE1, will teach the skills engineers need to competently and successfully do intrapreneurial or entrepreneurial product development: competitive analysis, market research, creativity, concept development, strategy, product development, marketing, packaging, project management, leading/managing/following, execution, prototyping, manufacturing, sales, customer service, finance and law. “This class will move very fast – a new subject every day. It will be intense, interactive and fun,” Fay said.

James Fay (chem engr ’74), accomplished entrepreneur, consultant and instructor for the College of Engineering’s new Entrepreneurial Product Development Engineering course

The second course under development will put into practice everything engineering students learned in the first course. Students will develop new products from their own ideas in a team-based, competitive, entrepreneurial environment that is real rather than theoretical. “This course,” said Fay, “will be more about coaching and guiding instead of teaching.”

“Engineers are problem solvers. We want engineers to be more aware of and involved in unpacking needs and providing solutions to customers, figuring out what the problem is and why we should solve it, from beginning to end,” said Gül Kremer, C.G. “Turk” & Joyce A. Therkildsen Department Chair in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering.

Inspiring early innovation and entrepreneurship

E-PdE1 will be open to all engineering students at junior standing and is recommended for students who are interested in product development or starting a company. The class will involve reading assignments, in-class discussion, student presentations, role-playing, individual and team projects and more. Fay also plans to bring in other entrepreneurs to share their experiences and knowledge with the class. The course will be offered in classroom and online formats.

“Said simply, the E-PdE courses will teach tomorrow’s engineers how to turn innovative product ideas into successful products and companies,” said Fay. “E-PdE1 is about learning the skills necessary to define, prototype, validate, market, sell and service to meet business goals and strategies. It is a heavy-thinking course that delivers a whole lot of learning! The follow-up course puts it all to work. We expect real products and real businesses to come out of these courses.”

According to Fay, people who start product-based companies are generally in two different phases of life: right out of college or in their mid-30s. Those right out of college, Fay says, have a significant failure rate due to lack of experience, skills, connections and money.

“Those in their mid-30s are much more likely to have built those resources, so their success rate is higher,” Fay said. “However, it took the mid-30s entrepreneurs about 15 years of watching and learning, and a lot of luck. The objective is that the E-PdE courses will speed up and improve both the quality of the learning and the success rate. We’re going to give students the skills, contacts and thinking methodologies that would take you 15 years to get on your own.”

Fay will partner with Dave Sly, professor of practice in industrial and manufacturing systems, entrepreneur and problem solver, in delivery of  E-PdE courses.

“We will provide Iowa State engineering students the skills to create products and start companies, and they’ll be taught in a protected, coached environment by people who have done it and done it well,” added Kremer.

Learning from experts

After earning a B.S. in chemical engineering from Iowa State in 1974, Fay worked for Monsanto, Procter & Gamble, American Can and Kimberly-Clark as an intrapreneur, developing Huggies® Disposable Diapers, Huggies® Pull-Ups® Disposable Training Pants, Huggies® Baby Wipes, oven- and microwave-safe paperboard trays, metalized packaging, boil-in bags and StarFire® charcoal.

Fay then went on to become an entrepreneur, starting Delta Research, a consulting company specializing in product development, marketing, market research and innovation. He also was a founder of the companies that invented the Diaper Genie ®, which is the #1 non-disposable baby product in the U.S, the ByteSize Reader, SUCCEED® equine nutritional supplements and the DEUS Rescue line of professional rescue equipment used by firefighters.

His current interest, aside from consulting and teaching at Iowa State, is a new venture that makes shelter-in-place and self-rescue equipment for residents of high-rise buildings.

“I’m excited to teach these E-PdE courses. There is no other way for students to learn this much, this fast, about product development and being an entrepreneur. There are no courses like these anywhere else. I want Iowa State engineering students to know that entrepreneurship is an option – and to help give them the tools to succeed at it,” Fay said.

Fay has lectured in the MBA programs at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Colorado, the sociology department at the University of Colorado and in the economics department at Colorado College.

If you are interested in discussing how you can support the College of Engineering’s entrepreneurial and product development educational opportunities, please contact Aimee Wesley in the engineering development office at 515-450-1326 or