Toy Product Design Class Hosts ‘Playsentations’ at University of Minnesota – 3D Printing Plays Major Role

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The value of play as an educational tool is often underrated. This can be especially true sometimes in the disciplines where you least expect it to be, such as design. This isn’t because it is less enjoyable to designers, but rather because designers are often trying so hard to prove that what they do isn’t just ‘fun’ but is serious business. However, more and more leading thinkers in the design disciplines are starting to try to get back to the fun, as a valuable tool for innovation. It’s not just in Google’s ping-pong tables or IDEOs office environment, but there is now recognition that the very act of play is part of design, rather than something that must be done to take a break from it all.

classimage1In May, students from Barry Kudrowitz’s Toy Product Design Class, offered in the Product Design department, hosted Playsentations to showcase the products of the course. In the course itself, students work in small teams to design and prototype their own toy concepts. As part of the process, they engage with children and members of the toy industry to gather feedback and to further develop their ideas.

playsentationsThe class has no prerequisites and is open to any student from across the campus. The idea being that it will serve as a tool to introduce students to the product design process and, of course, help the program to both recruit new students, who will find that the world of product design isn’t what they thought it was (or that it is exactly what they thought it was…and they love it). It is not atypical for design departments at universities to have a course that is an introduction to design, open to students across the university. As there is an increased recognition of the power of the creative industries and designerly ways of thinking, more and more students are drawn to these types of courses as well as a compliment to their particular area of study.

Alumni of past classes are asked to come back as assistant instructors to help the newbies navigate through the world of possibilities available through technology. One alum who assisted was Mac Cameron who expressed the general level of enjoyment found across student and instructor blogs.

“I was excited to be asked to 3D print parts this year because the Design Studio’s Stratasys Dimension 3D Printers were at capacity. When I was a student, the theme was Track Based Motion. Our team 3D printed connectors capable of creating huge marble runs, by linking cans, paper, and bottles together. Two years later, I am impressed with the ideas students came up with and how they used 3D printed models to look and function like end-use parts.”

chozmoAnd who could resist The Chozmo, a chocolate extrusion gun that looks like a hot glue gun. Aside from the clearly delicious opportunity this would provide, to squirt melted chocolate on anything you’d like, it is a riff on 3D printing technology’s history. The Chozmo can be used as an additive manufacturing tool in which a chocolate is laid down in quickly cooling strata and built up to create a hand 3D printed chocolate product.  This is not the first time that chocolate has been considered as a material for 3D printing, however this is certainly a unique take on the process. It is a particularly interesting take on 3D techniques because of the role the glue gun played in inspiring Scott Crump, inventor of Fused Deposition Modeling and Chairman of Stratasys.

rogrOther toys, such as ROGR, a programmable alien robot and Buddy Bandz interactive wristbands, presented at Playsentations utilized the 3D printing technologies as a means for production rather than a comment on the process itself, but they were no less engaging. Each team created their presentation in the same entertaining and playful manner suggested by the course as a whole. Each video was uploaded to youtube and they are truly enjoyable.

You can see the course syllabi, lectures, and materials which are all available for free on the class website. It’s enough to make you want to sign up to make sure you can be part of next year’s fun! Let’s hear your opinion on this interesting , fun new way of learning in the Playsentations forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video overview below:

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