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MIT student blogger Snively '11

Toy Design Wrapup by Snively '11

What am I going to do with all of my time now?

Tension filled the air as people were ushered in to 6-120. Scientists dotted the MIT campus, urging people to get to 6-120 as fast as possible.

Following the advice of the scientists and heading towards 6-120 you may have been confused. There were small groups of people in corners, talking busily, people running around in lab coats with clip boards, and caution tape roped off entire buildings. Something was obviously going on. . .

Wait . . . what? Students at play? Oh right! Tuesday was the 4th Annual Playsentations, the final Toy Design hoorah where all of the groups present their final prototypes to an audience of industry representatives, parents, and friends. A semester’s worth of work culminated in 2 hours of shear amazingness. I know I’ve been holding back and not telling you what my toy is, leaving you hints and leaving you guessing. This is the entry where all is revealed, where I tell you exactly what my team and I have been working on for our entire second semester. Sit back, it was a crazy night!

I arrived at the PlaySentations 2 hours early so that I could practice with my group. I had one of the two speaking roles so I, theoretically, had my lines memorized and ready to recite as eloquently as humanly possible. Too bad I managed to forget most of them right as we began to practice, but luckily I regained my composure. My group was awesome and ready for the presentation so we decided to chill before the show started. This is when the writing instructor came up to us.

“You guys, have you filed a patent for your toy yet?”
“Um, no, should we?”
“Well, you’re about to pitch your idea to a group of people that could potentially steal it. I recommend a patent.”
“Oh, you’re right, um, ok, to an Athena Cluster!”

Elizabeth and I ran to a cluster and surfed around on the internet before finding a very convenient e-mail my dad had sent me regarding patents. I linked to the site he sent me, did some quick skimming, and then downloaded the form. 30 minutes and $278 dollars later BOOM! I got official word today that we’re officially Patent Pending so it’s safe to tell you guys what we’ve been working on. Sorry, it’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I don’t trust you.

:)

The lights dimmed and our professor took the stage. The Playsentations began.

The first group to go was Tube Racers.

followed by

Seismic Survival

Elektros

LUX

DIGITal DJ

Infection

Cool Pool

Cell Slap

and The Orb

I’ll skip the descriptions of each just because I couldn’t really do each one justice and because a video of the entire event will eventually hit the web. I will, however, discuss the one I skipped. That would be my group’s toy.

What’s it called???

“ElectroPlushies”

Ooooooh-ahhhhhhhh!

So, what’s an ElectroPlushie? Try to think of it as a mix between a Giant Microbe:

and snap circuits:

Essentially, ElectroPlushies are large, plushy versions of electrical components that can be snapped together to build real circuits. Each plushy, while resembling an electrical component (resistors, capacitors, switches, batteries, LEDs, etc) actually has the real component inside. Wires run from the component, down the leads of the plushy, and are soldered to magnetic snaps at the end of the plushy (and bendable!) leads. This lets you snap together different components and learn the basics of circuitry while still playing with stuffed toys.

Each ElectroPlushie has a personality that corresponds to what its function in the circuit is. The battery is energetic, the piezo buzzer is angry, the LED is bright and happy, the button is confused (he doesn’t know whether he’s on or off), and the resistor is cool and resistant to flow.

We made five ElectroPlushies for the Playsentations and they are as follows (photography by Eric Schmiedl):

Battery

Buzzer

Resistor

Button/Switch

LED

After presenting our toy to a packed house and to some random CBS news camera

(btw, we rocked it)

we did some Q&A (also rocked (and also quite funny)) and then returned to our seats, thrilled at our pitch and still listening to the applause ringing in our ears. The audience responded incredibly well and loved the toy, much to our relief. After all of the presentations the audience (upwards of 300 people) filled out evaluations for each presentation (concept, implementation, presentation, etc). Ordinarily there would be very little incentive to actually fill these forms out, but this being MIT and toy design, there’s always incentive. Our professor took the stage again:

“I would like to thank Hasbro for all of the help they’ve provided us this year. Hasbro would also like to thank us. Do you all have your evaluations filled out? Good, because Hasbro has decided to give us a little something. . . ”

Off to the side of the stage a large black drape is pulled off of a huge pile of boxes, each conspicuously with the word “TOYS” on it. A box was opened and the contents hoisted into the air. This is when the audience realized that every single person was about to get a free Nerf gun! Any blank evaluations were instantly filled out and were traded for plastic projectile goodness as people filed out into the lobby for milk and cookies. I stayed behind and chatted with my group and some guests about our toys.

Eventually everybody had filed out, I had my Nerf gun(s) and Maddie and I headed back to Burton-Conner, finally done with Toy Design, not quite able to accept the fact that it was all over.

We walked up the two flights of stairs to Conner 2 and opened the door into the hallway only to hear “WE NEED MORE AMMO!!! GO GO GO GO GO!” as Yuki ran screaming by the door dodging a hail of flying foam and firing darts down the hall. The war had begun, I quickly dropped all of my stuff, loaded my Nerf gun, and joined the fray.

You see, the vast majority of my floor had come to watch the Playsentations and, consequently, there are now over a dozen Nerf guns laying all over the floor. This is what the wall next to my desk looks like:

We’ve recently acquired 96 more darts (that work much better than the ones that came with the guns) and we spend most of our time target shooting various lights and windows. Now, while dart guns are really fun, I think Yuki’s AIM away message from the other day pretty much sums up the current state of things:

Bad Ideas 101: Giving out 100 free Nerf guns the week before finals.

So that’s it, Toy Design is over, for now. I’m working at Hasbro this summer and will begin getting ElectroPlushies ready to be marketed, distributed, get the official patent filed (we’re operating under a provisional right now), get prototypes ready to show at Toy Fair 2009, and generally make sure that these things end up on ThinkGeek and in stores everywhere. I’m taking SP.779 next semester, which is Advanced Toy Design (or, free lab time to work on continuing toys).

I’ll post a link to the video of the Playsentations when it’s posted to the web, it’s worth a watch (but I pre-apologize for the audio, it was terrible! I wanted to rip my mic off and smash it under my heel). Good luck with the end of the year everybody, you’re so close!

41 responses to “Toy Design Wrapup”

  1. Yuzhi '12 says:

    That is sooo awesome!! Now everyone is going to sign up for Toy Design next year. May I blame you if I don’t get a spot in the class? XP

    How did the Patent get pending so quickly? I thought they take forever to even get to pending stage!! Mind sending me some info regarding patents?

  2. Judy '12 says:

    lawl… LED is the best !!

  3. las1 says:

    Awesome! Well done!

  4. Frances says:

    who knew college could be so much fun? i sooo hope i can get into MIT!!!
    congrats on you toy presentation, btw, and good luck on your finals!! =]

  5. Danny '12 says:

    Yay Snively! ElectroPlushies ftw!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow, what an awesomely detailed post. No wonder you have been busy this semester! I’m really curious what LUX is now.

  7. lulu says:

    uh infection sure sounds like a fun game.

  8. Snively says:

    LUX is a color-eating hippo thing. You push his mouth against some colored object and his back turns that color. You push him against another colored object and he “eats” it too, mixing it with the color already in his back displaying the new mixed color, teaching the principles behind additive color mixing.

    He’s really awesome, the possibilities are exciting. They demonstrated his color mixing with their shirts, he worked really well.

  9. Snively says:

    @Nigel K
    Yeah, I shoot for the MIT Varsity Pistol Team.

  10. Quentin '10 says:

    Umm… it’s NOT cool that you’re ripping off another MIT student’s idea and trying to patent it.

    Star Simpson at MITERS has been developing a system called Fuzzy Logic for over a year now. When I first saw your project, I had to check twice to make sure she wasn’t part of your team. I hate to say it, but you’re definitely stepping on prior art here.

    –Quentin

  11. Neha says:

    this all looks so amazing.It’s not fair to just give single picture for each of the psesentations.I think every presentation would be worth a blog entry.Or atleast 2 or 3 of them together.btw thank god you patented your creation.it’s so cool that someone was bound to steal it.

  12. Neha says:

    I mean come on,now after knowing what LUX is,can you wait to know more?

  13. Isshak says:

    Wow that LUX toy looks great ! But yours has a more educational approach, which could be implemented in primary school I think, to teach the basics of electricity. Hm, this makes me think…

  14. '11 says:

    They look so cool. I wish we had used them in 8.02 this year. It would have helped me so much. You should add a capacitor and an inductor to your collection. I swear I would buy them then.

    Good job!

  15. Awesome! I want (more than) one! Random thought…can ElectroPlushies be hooked up in parallel to each other? I really like the snap connectors you’ve used, but they would seem to limit the kinds of circuits one could build. But then, I suppose there would come a point where actual components would be preferable to the cute, stuffed variety.

    (BTW, I’m picturing a computer made of ElectroPlushies…following the introduction of the plush transistor and IC, of course.)

  16. Snively says:

    @Matt
    I love to avoid bringing up the parallel issue because I know people will eventually ask it. I also have an awesome plan to solve it that we didn’t have time to implement for Playsentations. We anticipate a solder blob ElectroPlushie that’s essentially a hub of magnetic snaps that ElectroPlushies can all connect to.

    Another plan is a play mat that looks like a circuit board but functions like a breadboard so kids can breadboard ElectroPlushies and build whatever they want.

    I anticipate a computer as well, just a matter of time.

  17. Piper says:

    @Snively – Semi-random, but since you are course 2, is toy design something you would like to do as a career? Or is it just something fun to pursue for now?

  18. Snively says:

    @Piper
    Technically I’m 2A with product development so toy design is something I’m seriously considering for a career.

  19. Isshak says:

    So if we want to design cool innovative products later as a job, course 2 should be the major to take ?

  20. Snively says:

    @Isshak
    Course 2 lets you build stuff so I’d say yes. Course 6, 1, 3, 4, 11, 16, and others are all pretty specific but mechanical engineering is more broad, teaching you building techniques that can be applied in a variety of areas.

  21. Nigel K says:

    Hey Snively? Are those air pistol targets on your wall as well? You aren’t by any chance a shooter now are you? Cause if they were, you’re not bad…

  22. nakoruru says:

    @Quentin: I personally do not believe that Snively’s team stole the idea for their toy from Fuzzy Logic.

    It is not unheard of for 2 people/groups to come up with similar ideas/concepts independently of each other.

    However, I do agree with your observation that the similarities between ElectroPlushies and Fuzzy Logic are uncanny.

  23. nakoruru says:

    On the bright side… ElectroPlushies is less likely to be mistaken for a terrorist bomb than Fuzzy Logic, when going thru Logan Airport.

    http://www.boston.com/news/globe/city_region/breaking_news/2007/09/mit_student_arr.html

  24. Paul says:

    I love the matching team “uniforms,” especially Tube Racers. :D

  25. Boy George says:

    Now what’s the deal with all the spamming of these blogs by bots?
    Ben should set up some kind of a filter to stop ’em Soviets from getting us ’em viruses.

  26. Snively says:

    @Sara ’10
    While I did ignore it on the blogs, it is most certainly not being ignored in general. After exchanging several e-mails with Quentin yesterday morning I spent a good chunk of my day calling various professors, reading up on patents, and discussing options with my design group.

    I don’t want to go into hardly any detail on the blogs just because this isn’t really the place for it, but I will say that the two products were developed completely independently and that I had never seen her project when I originally conceived of mine. While it seems a bit sketchy, it really was just a huge coincidence.

  27. carmen'12 says:

    omg!! they are adorable!! are there any capacitors and inductors?
    do let me know when they will be on sale! i would love to buy it

  28. Anonymous says:

    Snively, would you also like to explain why you put only your name on the patent application? You may have been the one that paid for the patent but the final product was a collaborative effort on your team’s part and they should have been mentioned. This seems ‘a bit sketchy’ as well. It’s good that you are so passionate about this but you seem to be taking it way too far…

  29. Snively says:

    @Anonymous
    That patent was filled out in 20 minutes before the start of the show. It cost $300 and instead of trying to collect money from everybody or figure out the implications of multiple inventors I just fronted the cash and put my name on.

    Tonight over dinner we’re going to be discussing who is willing to help pay and who wants their names on it. As anybody in my group will tell you, I have no intention of keeping their names off of it. 37 CFR 1.48 (section D) lets us add names so we’ll do that as soon as we know who exactly we’re adding.

    As for being passionate about something and taking it way too far, that’s just narrow thinking. If you’re passionate about something you take it as far as possible! If you’re at MIT then you know this, admissions looks for people who follow their passions and stretch the limits. Doing anything but is just cutting yourself short. I have no regrets patenting something I’ve been working on for the last semester (even if the act itself was hastened and not altogether thought out, sometimes you have to act fast) and seeing it through to fruition, nor do any of my teammates. You’ll be seeing more of ElectroPlushies.

  30. Snively says:

    @Anonymous
    BTW, I never mentioned in this post that my name was the only one on the patent which means you and I know each other. If you actually have an issue with any of this then please just ask me in person. I’m not trying to cut anybody short here.

  31. Piper says:

    @Snively – That would be such an awesome career!

    (Unlike spam. Spam is the opposite of awesome.)

    @Isshak – take 2.00B or another intro class in a subject you like and see what it does for you =P

  32. Anonymous says:

    @Snively
    Thanks for the response. I actually don’t know you, but lots of people have been talking about this and I heard about the patent issue via word of mouth. While the other issues are being brought up I just wanted to see that you are held accountable for your actions and everyone gets fair credit for their work. And by ‘taking it way too far,’ I was not referring to continuing on with the toy, because you are right that if that’s what you believe in and what you want to do you should go for it, but just acting rashly and perhaps unfairly. Glad to hear that things are hopefully being worked out.

  33. Snively says:

    @Anonymous
    The patent thing was really rushed, that was the only issue with that. Everybody will get credit, no worries.

  34. Sara '10 says:

    Snively, you seem to have ignored Quentin’s comment about Star’s FuzzyLogic. Could you please address this?
    -Sara

  35. Chidinma '12 says:

    It looks really cool, Snively! But wow, I never thought anything involving toys could get so complicated with patents and such.

  36. HA! Gotta love those nerf guns!
    Oh, and I changed by mind. The battery is actually cute. =P
    How many plushies stopped working by the end of the night?

  37. Aditi says:

    ‘students at play’ :D

    thats just one hundred percent amazing.

    I love resistor! Buzzer looks a bit like a pokemon whose name I cant remember. I want those!

  38. Jameson says:

    @nakoruru:

    actually, Fuzzy Logic is airport safe:

    tv.boingboing.net/2008/05/08/star-simpsons-fuzzy.html

  39. Wow, awesome toy!!!!!!

    That sounds like such an awesome class…………