Industrial design students launch innovations beyond the classroom

Two BYU industrial design students have taken classroom innovation to the next level, using Kickstarter to launch their senior project into a real business.  In one month they raised more than three times their original funding goal.   

Aaron Puglisi and Daniel Shirley founded their company, Tessel, and created the “Jet Pack” backpack, which was successfully funded through their Kickstarter project.  The Jet Pack incorporates advanced design, utility and the playful childhood desire to fly.

“Our professors encourage us to put as much as we can into our projects,” said Puglisi, a senior graduating in April 2014. “The ID program is great, but really it’s up to the students to see how far they want to take their projects. What better way to do a senior project than to turn it into a business?” 

According to Tessel’s mission statement, “Tessel's focus is to create products that strengthen the emotional connections between us and our childhood. Every product carries a story from our childhood into our everyday life, reminding us of who we are and what makes us unique.”

Using the online crowd funding resource, the students set a Kickstarter goal to raise $17,000 to manufacture and sell their product. After their 30-day pledge drive, the Tessel backpack had raised more than $56,000. Since then, 12 different design publications have featured and complimented the product.

The students say their success is due to hard work, dedication and everything they’ve gained from the industrial design program here at BYU, specifically technical skills and encouragement from professors.

“Studying industrial design at BYU has been a great experience,” said Puglisi. “Outside of design skills, I’ve learned how important it is to focus on what really matters, both on projects and life in general. With all the work we have put in over the last year and a half, we have had to apply something we learned from all of our major classes.” 

Shirley, who graduated in December, specifically appreciated the mentoring he received from the industrial design professors.

 “I really like the professors and how they push you to figure out who you are as a designer and what you want out of design,” said Shirley. “What helped me learn who I am as a designer is to focus on a story instead of a product. We are filling an emotional need that users have through our story-backed product.”

The company name “Tessel” comes from the word tessellation, which means repetition of a shape into a pattern. “The reason for the name is our day to day lives are made up of repetition,” said Shirley. “A lot of things that we remember in life are when that pattern is disrupted.”

The two successful students offered advice to those just starting the industrial design program.

“Take school projects above and beyond what is expected,” said Puglisi.  “Like [Professor] Paul Skaggs says, ‘Nothing is learned until it is applied.’ So take a product from start to finish, show everyone what you can do.”

“Do what you are passionate about in your spare time,” said Shirley. 

For more information about the industrial design program here at BYU, please visit

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