First-Year Students Set Sail Engineering Design Skills with Redesigned Toys

Friday, December 08, 2017

First-year biomedical engineering students mixed fun with learning this fall to give children with motor skills and visual challenges the ability to enjoy such popular games as Battleship and Lite-Brite.

As part of a new design studio classroom, a dozen student teams modified existing toys, redesigned other games and created new fun-filled adventures that will be added to a lending library provided by Reach Services, a Terre Haute, Ind.-based agency. Parents, teachers and therapists can check out the toys for the children to play the games.

“Biomedical engineering students have a passion to help others, and they are doing that through these redesigned toys. They enjoy seeing that they have skills, even as first-year students, that can help others,” says Patsy Brackin, a professor of mechanical engineers.

Some of these redesigned games include a Bigger, Better Battleship Game, adapting the classic strategy game with larger playing board and game pieces for people with visual difficulties; a Lite-Brite Special Grip, a tool that will allow children with fine motor disabilities the ability to grab the small, colored pegs to create fun designs on the game board; and a handheld puzzle toy that challenges the visually impaired to guide a marble through different layers within an internal maze.

Also developed were a Mosaic-Drawing Board, allowing children with autism to create funny patterns while developing the senses of color, touch and two-dimensional creativity; a Batman Utility Belt, altered to allow children with cerebra/l palsy to easier hold enlarged game pieces to play mini games featuring Batman, Joker and Riddler characters; and a Snap Circuits game, where youths can magnetically connect eight large plastic building blocks to create an electrical circuit.

First-year student Elizabeth Fiutem states that the design studio course helped biomedical engineering students apply classroom lessons in a real-world setting. She was one of five students who worked on the Better Battleship game, which features toy destroyer and aircraft carrier pieces that were crafted through 3-D printing techniques. The team also used a distinctive color pattern on the game board to assist visually impaired.

“Building something that makes others happy motivates you to go farther as an engineer,” she said. “It’s amazing what we did in our first 10 weeks at Rose-Hulman. I can’t wait."