Evaluating Prototypes with Northwestern DTC Students

February 13, 2013

We mentioned in a December post that Michael Prince and Jody Libman, owner of Trianon Development, were working with the DTC (Design Thinking and Communication) class at Northwestern University to solve a real-world problem through design and engineering. The project went so well last semester that the two have teamed up again to work with this semester’s class on the same project, but with a few different parameters.

The students were asked to design a mechanism (non-electric) that will open public restroom doors without the use of your hands, but this semester the concept does not have to be retrofitted to an existing door. The idea behind the project is to help prevent the spread of illnesses by not having to touch a door handle that so many others have already touched. It is a partial solution to the much larger issue of germ transfer in public establishments.

The class is divided into four teams and yesterday one representative from each team visited our studio to present their initial prototypes and get feedback from Michael and Jody. The students started with initial field research and watched how people enter and exit the dorm bathrooms. They noticed behaviors such as people using their elbows, a paper towel, or the sleeve of their shirt rather than their hand to open the door.

The teams presented concepts that included magnets, levers, pulleys, pedals, and a push-to-open mechanism that works much like a cupboard door. They were interesting concepts and a lot of feedback was given on their ideas. The students have five more weeks of class and will develop a full-scale prototype with what they believe is their best idea before the end of the program. You can view some of their mock-ups below.

Design Thinking and Communication at NU

DTC students reviewing their work with Michael and Jody

Uses a type of bar to extend across door to open/close it.

Incorporates a lever at the top of the door.

Incorporates a lever to open/close the door.

This idea involves a pedal with a cable attached to it that uses a change in direction of the cable to increase the tension that can be exerted by the pedal on the door that it is attached to

Uses magnetic strips in the door frame that attract one another and slide down to repel.

This prototype also incorporates magnets.

Michael Prince and Jody Libman giving feedback on prototypes.

We look forward to seeing how their ideas improve and change in the coming weeks (and we’ll be sure to share those on here). To learn more about the DTC program, click here.

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