Select Page

Industrial Design (ID) students Sara Burch ’16 and Tiffany Do ’17 created innovative drone designs that led them to the final round of General Motors’ (GM) annual Interactive Design Competition in Warren, Mich.  

Full-time students from throughout the US and Canada applied to the competition by submitting preliminary designs throughout September and early October, after which semi-finalists were chosen. Finalists worked with GM mentors to fine-tune their design submissions by November 17. All finalists had the opportunity to video call with judges and talk them through their design before final decisions were made.

image | MIAD

Burch and Do both designed drones, but each had a very different purpose. Burch’s speleological drone was designed to assist in locating, exploring, surveying and illuminating the subterranean environment. “The concept of my design was inspired by adventure,” said Burch.

Burch crafted her drone with an emphasis on personification, “I wanted to create something that looked anthropomorphized, more like a companion as opposed to mere utility,” said Burch.

image | MIADDo focused her design on finding a futuristic solution to the disappearance of natural pollinators, “It was inspired by the unknown phenomenon that afflicts honeybees each year; colony collapse disorder and pesticide use has become detrimental to the bee population,” said Do.

Her design involved a drone system that pollinates crops, “It was modeled after a hummingbird because of their superior ability to visit hundreds of flowers every day,” added Do.

As finalists, both designers received full day passes to the second day of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which included the awards ceremony. 

Both students credit MIAD’s ID program with providing them with the skills necessary to make it this far, “MIAD’s ID program helped me prepare for the experience every step of the way. We had in-depth critiques after every brainstorming session, we even had a person from Marquette University fly a drone for us to better understand how they functioned,” said Do.

image | MIAD“The drone process was a whirlwind of vast conception and exploration with emphasis on thinking about the possible and impossible,” said Burch. She found the early part of the sketch process to be instrumental, with GM mentors remarking that MIAD students were quite skilled in this area. 

“If there’s one thing MIAD’s fantastic ID program has taught me, it’s to generate infinite ideas,” said Burch.

For more information about MIAD’s ID program, click here.

Image 1: Do’s Drone Design
Image 2: Burch drawing on a GM car before it drives through the city
Image 3: Lily Drone