Democratizing Design Through The Use of Lego-Inspired Universal Connectors
Min Pack and Khanjan Mehta
IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference
Pack, M., Mehta, K., “Democratizing Design Through The Use of Lego-Inspired Universal Connectors,” IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, Seattle, Washington, Oct 2012
Students at Penn State University are working on the design of an affordable and sustainable Innovation Space where people from various walks of life can converge to rapidly prototype innovative products that meet their unique needs and preferences. This Innovation Space is being designed for resource-constrained contexts like East Africa where unemployment rates exceed 40% and systemic challenges impact people’s lives and livelihoods. This space provides innovators a vehicle to rapidly and effectively take ideas from a concept to a product. A key feature of this space is access to various kinds of connectors and structural elements that collectively form a full-scale “Lego set” for innovators. Universal connectors made of mild steel form the vertices of structures with the edges made of locally available materials like mild steel, plastic or bamboo. Special connectors have been designed to add wheels to structures or make bicycle-powered devices. This paper presents the conceptual framework for this connector centric prototyping environment and showcases some of the products that can be prototyped there. The overarching objective of this venture is to develop a Lego-inspired set of connectors that forms the nucleus of innovation spaces to be implemented in secondary and vocational schools in East Africa. We envision that these Innovation Spaces will nurture small enterprises based on the connectors themselves as well as market-driven products designed with them. More importantly, it will provide the next generation of students a venue to develop their creativity, design skills and an entrepreneurial mindset.