Experiential Learning at UC Turned Start-Up

Michael Ragsdale, fourth-year industrial design student at UC, was selected as the winner of First Batch and Queen City Angels Community Choice award in the 2015 Cincinnati Innovates Competition.

Cincinnati Innovates is open to anyone who has an innovation, idea or invention and has a Greater Cincinnati connection. This competition is designed to showcase the technological, artistic and ingenious innovations of all Cincinnatians. 

Ragsdale was selected as the winner of First Batch, a product accelerator. He also won the Queen City Angels Community Choice award for Bailout, a pocket-sized. self-rescue device which will allow firefighters and other safety workers to escape from elevated environments greater than 100 feet quickly and safely. Ragsdale’s innovative design is the smallest lowering device on the market with the greatest hold weight (2,800 pounds) that allows an escape from elevations greater than 100 feet. Bailout was the only submission to win two awards in the competition.

Bailout started after a conversation between Ragsdale and a firefighter friend of his. The friend told a story of an entire fire company in New York City that was forced to jump from a fourth-story window; two of those men died. “He challenged me to create a device that could be conveniently carried into a fire or rescue situation to ensure that people in this line of work would never be faced with the decision that these men were forced to make – jump or burn alive,” stated Ragsdale.

Ragsdale prepared for the upcoming competition by participating in the Experience Exploration Program (EEP) in conjunction with his cooperative education. EEP is designed to give students enrolled in the Cooperative Education Program the opportunity to have a one-time educational alternative to the traditional, paid co-op positions. EEP alternatives require prior notification to and approval from the Professional Practice Faculty Adviser.

Professor Beth Anne Herrin, industrial design co-op advisor in the Division of Professional Practice and Experiential Learning (ProPEL), fully supported Ragsdale's participation in EEP. “When Michael came to me with his 'dream,' we agreed that this would be the perfect example of how to apply an independent study to allow him to test his idea, stated Herrin. “I ran into Michael on a regular basis in the DAAP shop at all hours of the day and night. He was really using every minute he had to figure out the dream. … Michael’s 'independent study' has evolved into real-life experience in business plans, pitching venture capital, building a cross-functional team and partnering with suppliers. I fully expect that Michael will walk out of DAAP/ID as a 2017 graduate with a fully operating business.”

From what started as a dream for Ragsdale is now something quite spectacular. Bailout is a cross-discipline collaboration consisting of two University of Cincinnati students from the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning and an alumnus from the Lindner College of Business. In addition to Ragsdale, the Bailout team is comprised of Patrick Henke, industrial design '17, and Erik Zamudio, University of Cincinnati marketing and psychology alum.

Ragsdale, Henke and Zamudio met at the 2015 Bearcat Launchpad Pitch Competition. The Bearcat Launchpad is a student-led initiative providing undergraduate students the opportunity to come together at the University of Cincinnati and work on interdisciplinary teams to turn ideas into viable business concepts. 

“It is when both Erik and Patrick joined the team that Bailout went viral overnight,” stated Ragsdale. "Erik and Patrick working together were able to communicate what I often struggle to. I have vision and passion, but it is the effort and talent of these two individuals that gave expression to this work, presenting it to the world in a meaningful way. The three of us complement one another’s skills, working in almost perfect harmony, something that makes this endeavor fun and rewarding.”

For more about Bailout, contact Michael Ragsdale at michaelaragsdale@yahoo.com. 

About ProPEL
ProPEL (the Division of Professional Practice and Experiential Learning) is an integrated hub of experiential learning programs at the University of Cincinnati, including cooperative education, academic internships and pre-health internships, service learning, undergraduate research, and transdisciplinary industry collaborations (UC Forward).  Faculty-led instruction and advising integrates connects classroom theory to real-world practice through hands-on experience and reflection.