Sunday, June 7, 2020


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    USU students test outdoor products in Moab

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    Study is part of development, design field course

    Moab played host to a dozen Utah State University students who tested outdoor recreation products as part of a field course. The class also explored the outdoor products industry. Photo courtesy of USU

    Twelve students from Utah State University recently completed an intensive three-week summer course in outdoor product design and development, using the Moab area as a hub for their field course. The students participated in several projects during the course, including product testing, meeting with industry groups, and analyzing dilemmas facing Moab and its involvement with the outdoor recreation industry, according to David Mathis, USU marketing manager in an email.

    Students began the course testing products for outdoor recreation use, to provide feedback on form and function, and also developed evaluation forms and a process to document feedback. The information, as well as the forms and processes developed, were shared with industry partners who provided products to the class. After this initial exercise the class explored the outdoor products industry, how the economics of the outdoor industry are affected by access to public lands, and the relationship between outdoor recreation and public lands, said Mathis.

    “Utah has developed into one of the world’s best-known locations for outdoor recreation and outdoor tourism, and Moab is at the top of the list for locations in Utah. It’s been a great fit for this class, exposing our students to the real-world application of their studies,” said Dr. Sean Michael, professor in both USU’s OPDD and landscape architecture and environmental planning programs, who coordinated the field course with OPDD instructor Julie Lamarra and three fellow USU colleagues.

    “We’re very fortunate to have the Moab area welcome us for this class, and for the many local and industry partners who helped make this class not only a reality, but a huge success. We hope this class, and future classes, are able to contribute to the growth and sustainability of recreation in this area,” said Michael.

    Students examined areas of interest or conflict related to the impact of outdoor recreation and outdoor tourism in the Moab area, including impacts related to the expansion of UTV use, overcrowding during peak travel days, including more translation services for international visitors to the national parks, social media and mobile apps for visitor information and communication, and health risks to pets during summer months in the desert, said Mathis.

    The OPDD program is a recent addition to the College of Agriculture & Applied Sciences at USU, allowing students with a desire to work in the outdoor industry to focus their studies on topics and training directly relevant to their career goals. Michael teaches in the program, and worked with USU Moab’s Associate Vice President, Dr. Lianna Etchberger, to help plan and host the course in Moab, which took about a year to coordinate, said Mathis.

    USU Moab will hire a full-time, onsite faculty member for the OPDD program to support its growth and development in the future. The position is set to start this fall, and will teach classes to students both in Moab and throughout the state at all of USU’s campuses, said Mathis.

    Many local businesses contributed to the success of the course, including the ACT Campground, where the students stayed during the course; Eddyline Welding, Blaze Bicycles/Bike Fiend, Poison Spider Bikes, SolGear, Moab Gear Trader, Nunatak, Gearheads, Outdoor Labs, Moab Desert Adventures, NavTec, Public Land Solutions and Coyote Shuttles. Their participation had a major impact on the success of the course, said Mathis.

    Other national groups also provided support for the class including the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and businesses including Western Aloha, Nite Ize, Mountain Khakis, Cotopaxi, Coalatree, Klymit, Oboz Footwear and Infuze Hydration, said Mathis.

    For more information about USU’s outdoor product design and development program, visit

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