Product Design Academy

Wharton’s Product Design Academy is a three-week deep dive into design thinking and product development. Through this studio-based program, students will identify customer needs, generate product concepts, prototype, and design a physical product for showcase.  


This three week hands-on program is designed for students to research, brainstorm, prototype, and design a new to the world product through the lens of the Design Thinking process. Students will gain technical prototyping skills utilizing the Studios@Venture Labs, a collection of workspaces and labs that house digital and analog fabrication technologies that empower students to make their ideas a reality. Students will also be introduced to entrepreneurial concepts on how to launch their idea and create a business around their product.  

Throughout the program, students will utilize the Design Thinking process to conduct user research to develop ideas for new to the world products – there is no requirement to already have an idea for a product in mind. Students will then work in teams around promising ideas to further develop and prototype the ideas into products as the keystone project for this course.  

In parallel, students will work on a series of individual prototyping skills building exercises and mini-projects to learn CAD design to utilize laser cutting and 3D printing services. 

Each summer, Product Design students:  

  • Gain technical prototyping skills through the use of fabrication technologies 
  • Challenge assumptions by identifying and redefining problems in order to create innovative solutions 
  • Conduct user research to aid in developing new products 
  • Create physical prototypes that test and validate ideas 
  • Learn CAD design and human-centered design solutions 
  • Explore historic Philadelphia and experience college life on Penn’s Ivy League campus  

All participants who complete the program will earn a Wharton Global Youth Certificate of Completion.  


Academic classes are held Monday-Friday with extracurricular activities available in the evenings and on the weekends. Students move in on Sunday pre-program, and move out the final Saturday of the program. For more information on campus life, visit our residential experience page.  

A typical day includes: 

  • 9:00-10:30am – Topics lecture / CAD Demonstration  
  • 10:30-10:45am – Mid-morning break  
  • 10:45-12:00pm – Small group activity  
  • 12:00-1:30pm – Lunch  
  • 1:30-3:00pm – Prototyping Skills Activities  
  • 3:00-3:15pm – Afternoon break  
  • 3:15-4:30pm – Group Work Time in Studio  

Session topics may include:  

  • User Research Techniques  
  • Synthesizing Qualitative Data  
  • Brainstorming Techniques  
  • Analog Prototyping  
  • Digital Fabrication Prototyping  
  • Large Scale Manufacturing Processes  
  • Product Launch Strategy  

 In the evening, students will have a number of extracurricular activities to choose from. Students can also opt to work on their final project with their group, meet with the program TAs, and/or relax at the dorm.  



High school students currently enrolled in grades 10-11 with a genuine interest in designing and fabricating a new to market product. No formal business background is required. International applicants are welcome. 


Admission to Wharton’s Product Design Academy is selective. Selections are based on a record of academic excellence and demonstrated creative problem solving critiques. Interested students are strongly encouraged to submit an application by the priority deadline. 

Please note that participation in the Product Design Academy does not guarantee admission into Penn. 

Instructional Team

Program Leader: Taylor Caputo 

Taylor Caputo is a product designer, artist, and academic with a background in the fine arts, crafts, and 3D modeling. An alum of the Integrated Product Design Program at the School of Engineering, she is now the Director of the Studios @ Venture Lab, a Fabrication Lab open to the entire UPenn community. Taylor created and teaches the interdisciplinary How to Make Things and Design of Connected Objects & Experiences courses. She offered design consulting to various companies such as Away Travel, Puma, and BioMeme, and has exhibited her work internationally, notably at the 2016 Vienna Design Week and 2018 Milan Design Week. A proud Philadelphian, Taylor also enjoys indulging in the city’s vegetarian delights and is an avid weaver and potter when not teaching.  

Teaching Assistants  

Teaching Assistants consist of both undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania. TAs facilitate small-group discussions, lead small-group lab work, ensure student understanding, assist with final project development, and hold office hours to answer student questions. 

"I love that I got to build tangible things and bring my ideas to life. It was a special opportunity to use the Makerspace. For the first few days, I would leave class thinking, 'I’m new to this field, but if this was my job, I would be so happy.'  The teachers also supported my ideas and encouraged me to explore them further.” - Sonia B., New Jersey, USA