Ramen noodles have often been thought of as a cheap, easy meal and are widely popular among college students. But what if there was a way to cook them in half the time? One Chico State professor recruited some of his students to design a product that can do just that.
Daren Otten has been designing products for roughly 20 years. He's traveled the globe to Asia to work with companies like Hamilton Beach and General Motors, and industry giants like HP and Epson here in the states. About a year ago, a mutual friend introduced him to Chris Johnson, a Sacramento businessman with a simple product idea: a microwavable container for cooking ramen noodles.
"We spent a lot of time measuring ramen noodles. All the major brands that are out there. We had an excel spreadsheet that looks at the various tolerances associated with ramen noodles so the product could ultimately fit the majority of the product that's out there in the marketplace," says Otten.
Johnson contracted Otten and 3 of his students to design the product, and after about a month and 100+ hours of hard work, the Rapid Ramen cooker was born. Rather than having to wait several minutes for water to boil, you just pour a cup of water into the container, stick it in the microwave for about 3 minutes and you're noodles are ready to eat. You only need to use half the amount of seasoning, cutting down on sodium, and it's safe to eat right out of the container. Otten says one of the best things about this project was the hands-on experience gained by his students.
"There's only so much theoretical stuff you can do in a classroom environment. Once you throw in an actual product that has actual deadlines that becomes a big deal. It really is invaluable for the students," he says.
Johnson has sold more than 100,000 Rapid Ramen cookers, which are now available in big retail stores like Walmart, Safeway and Winco.
The product was also featured on the show "Shark Tank", where Johnson secured $300,000 in funding from billionaire Mark Cuban.