NOVA, Inc., a highly successful startup, is 30 days out from the public deployment of its NOVA-2 device. The NOVA-2 is a wireless communications system that is designed to protect large urban areas from armed terror attacks. A recent radiofrequency safety test of the wearable device revealed that its extended power setting would expose the user to 10 times the recommended level of non-ionizing radiation. Reworking the device to address the technical problems would delay the launch by 18-24 months and put the jobs of NOVA employees at risk.
That was the dilemma faced by University of Arizona chemical engineering senior Leah Kaplan and Eller finance major Ian Burton when they traveled to Dallas-Fort Worth to compete in the first-ever Lockheed Martin Ethics in Engineering Case Competition, hosted by the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society at the University of Illinois's Gies College of Business. Representing Wildcat Consulting Group, Kaplan and Burton analyzed the engineering, ethical and business challenges of the case and offered their recommendations to the NOVA, Inc. board on how best to proceed. Kaplan and Burton were supported by their faculty advisor Dr. Paul Melendez, founder of the Eller Center for Leadership Ethics, and Dean Baygents, Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering.
The case competition involved two initial rounds and a third round for finalists. In the first round, Kaplan and Burton presented their solution as a 90-second elevator pitch. During the second round, Kaplan and Burton further presented the complexities of the problem and offered their solution of “Retain, Refine, Replace” during a 20-minute presentation. After being selected as finalists, Kaplan and Burton participated in the third round--25 minutes of direct questioning from NOVA’s nine-member “board of directors” comprised of Lockheed Martin managers and executives.
Kaplan and Burton ultimately placed second in the competition, beating out 10 other teams from universities across the nation.
"The competition was challenging, especially the final round, but it was a fantastic experience," says Kaplan. "It was great exploring all of the different aspects of the case and thinking through which solution we wanted to present. The experience helped prepare me for the complex problems that I will inevitably face in my future career.”
Header photo courtesy Lockheed Martin.