What it does
Make Racers bridges the gap between digital and real world craft play for children 10-16. Using the kit, kids can make their own custom racers to show off their creativity, and then share their creations with the world in an online mobile racing game!
During my research phase I came across "spatial intelligence" which is the ability to understand and manipulate objects in your "minds eye". While useful in everyday life it is also a predictor of future STEAM success, and best of all it can be trained with structured creative play. The objective of my project was to create a product that would help train this type of intelligence in children while also getting them interested in 3D scanning and other digital technologies. I believe it is important to cut through the smoke and mirrors and demystify technology from an early age.
How it works
Make Racers uses cardboard screws, a hole punch, and a screwdriver to make building with cardboard easy and mess-free for kids. Using the kit, kids can make their own custom racers, but they are supplied with a template out of the box to get them on the right track! Once the kids have built and decorated their racers, the app will use AR assisted mobile scanning. This uses two scanning mats to register the orientation, and builds an AR dome over the racer being scanned. The dome then allows for an easy, semi automated photogrammetry scan to be taken. The scanning software used for the development of this early version is Qlone. Later versions will integrate this function into the game app. Then, once the racers are scanned, kids will be able to race their custom cars against friends using the app. This hopes to motivate creative play and competition by use of video games as a space to compete and share your hard creative work.
From the concept stage to the final design took a huge amount of prototyping. I worked with sketches to get the base features, and the screws and screwdriver were first to be tested. The concept worked but the screw and driver system took 3 overhauls for the aesthetics and function to be right. Next was the punch, the most prototyped part of the kit. The form of the punch was very much designed with usability in mind from the start. Cardboard models to 3D printed, to functioning PETG models with 6mm blades. From here, the aesthetics were considered using sketching, but I decided to keep it simple, minimal, and charming. The wheel rims were sketched a lot, and so only went through 1 revision to match the screws, but the tyres took 3D printed models, and 3 revisions of soft cast polyurethane molds to get the aesthetic, fit, and demold right. After early development COVID safe user testing kits were sent out by post to 4 users, whos feedback helped to improve the template cars, as well as the instruction kit. The packaging was made to be sustainable yet durable, with natural materials only in its construction. I molded a cardboard pulp inner sleeve to hold the pieces in place, and used rice paste as a binder to ensure biodegradability.
How it is different
Make Racers is one of the first toy systems designed specifically for the jump between craft play and digital games. We introduce kids to 3D scanning, thinking about making planar forms into 3D forms, and how to stand out from the crowd. Simply, this toy design is looking forward to the future and arming kids with the skills they will need to make it in an increasingly creative society.
The next plans are to Kickstart Make Racers with crowdfunding from Kickstarter. This will require some marketing work and a small advertising budget, but if it get funding, then the goal is Late Late Toy Show feature in the next 2/3 years, and then into the hands of kids at home and in the classroom.