Student game designs to be sold at Marbles: The Brain Store

By Heather Scroering

While most students were cramming for exams and finishing up projects to present to professors during finals week, 16 students in the Art & Design Department’s Product Design V course took their final projects to the next level by pitching their ideas to a real client—Marbles: The Brain Store—on Dec. 12.

Working closely all semester with Marbles, a retail store that sells games and puzzles that encourage brain health, teams in the class had the opportunity to develop a product concept and produce it. The teams then presented their work to the store at the end of the semester, according to Kevin Henry, associate professor in the Art & Design Department, who helped set up the project.

According to Carl Boyd, adjunct faculty member in the Art & Design Department and instructor of Product Design V, Marbles selected three designs—a winner and two runners-up—to be produced and sold in stores this year.

“Our hearts were pounding pretty hard,” said James Schmidt, senior Art & Design major and first runner-up for his design, “How to Get a Cowboy to Take a Bath.” “It was very exciting. We had a lot of competition in our group. When we got chosen, we were just very thankful.”

Schmidt and his partner Winslow Harte developed a product similar to the game Mouse Trap, in which one action creates a chain of reactions, Schmidt said. However, rather than trapping a mouse, the object is to get a cowboy to take a bath.

To use the model, players must first construct it—the most challenging part, according to Schmidt. Builders are able to follow the instructions the model provides, but Schmidt said it would be more beneficial to use mathematics and logic.

Dimensioning and making sure everything is the proper size, distance and weight is the most important part, Schmidt said. He added that the model was mostly geared toward builders.

Once the model is together, the player places a marble on the track and releases it. The weight from the marble causes an action-reaction effect culminating in a cowboy boot kicking the cowboy off of his horse and into a bucket.

“Like Disney, we really wanted to bring that child out in someone,” Schmidt said. “The entertainment you get from building this model is this peak of overjoy. We wanted to get that little kid to come out and play for a second because I feel like we’re so serious.”

The winner of the contest was a game called “Colorfall,” created by Bradley Hoffman and Chrissy Quinlan, seniors in the Art & Design Department. According to Quinlan, the object of the game is to arrange colored tiles in a specific fashion using images the games provides. The tiles are then to be knocked over to create a mosaic design. Quinlan and Hoffman used the Eiffel Tower as their sample image.

Colorfall exercises visual perception and motor coordination, Quinlan said.

The second runner-up was a marble run produced by Christina Whitehouse and Austin Call, both seniors in the Art & Design Department. According to Whitehouse, Marbles already sells a marble run, but their design was unique in the sense that they utilized a channel system rather than a flat track.

Players are given 22 wooden blocks with round, hollow channels that can be fastened to a flat surface, such as a wall or door. Players are free to arrange the track however they like, she added.

Marbles gave each design team specific criteria to consider when coming up with a concept, according to Schmidt. They suggested games be fun, unique, high quality, brain-beneficial and take seconds to learn but years to master.

The class was given the opportunity to conduct prototyping and testing with people in Marbles stores, friends and family, Boyd said.

“[Students were] testing the mind to use the games and see if the gameplay was really fun, because if the gameplay isn’t fun, people won’t use it for very long,” he added.

According to Henry, every student in the product design focus will have the opportunity to work with an outside client for the duration of the semester in either Product Design IV or Product Design V, both core classes for the focus.

But Boyd said Marbles is the first client he has worked with who was willing to accept a product design to be sold.

“The best part about it was getting a client that was as eager and dedicated as Marbles turned out to be,” Boyd said. “In the past, the clients had a nominal commitment. They weren’t offering funding for the projects, and they also weren’t offering to take the products into production.”

Boyd said winners were awarded a $500 cash prize, and all contestants were given a $250 budget for manufacturing and prototyping.

Henry said a downside to the project was students will not be receiving royalties for their designs. They will be given full credit and their names will be printed on the box. Even so, Schmidt said he was grateful for the chance to get his product out there.

“It’s a reality,” he said. “We got this opportunity in college literally handed to us. I like having our name on that box and saying we worked with a company.”