Michigan Design Prize 2019

By Lauren Maksymiuk, Graphic Design Intern

For the 3rd year, we collaborated with students to create a concept at the 2019 Michigan Design Prize. Every year, K-12 and collegiate level students are tasked with designing a product based on larger societal issues and with a Michigan focus. This year, the challenge was to design a physical product solution that improves and beautifies the lives of Michigan’s citizens.

A group of 12th grade students from Branch Area Career Center worked with us to create the “RetroFit” Wheelchair Conversion Kit. Their idea would allow people in wheelchairs to easily navigate and enjoy the Michigan beaches and rough terrain. The kit is quick and easy to assemble, lightweight, and would fit virtually any wheelchair. Their goal was for anyone to be able to assemble the kit on their own, and for them to see the outdoors in a way they haven’t before. The team—Bryce Pagel, Alex Aseltine, Peter Nottingham, Jonathan Annis, Noah Anzaldua, and Khaled Gabri—described the aesthetic of the design as having it “blend in with the wheelchair and be practically unnoticeable.”

Before coming to Tekna, the students had a specific concept they created in CAD and 3D prints. On the day of the workshop, they went back to the drawing board and collaborated with our designers to come up with more ideas. After sketching more, they had new additions that made their product more feasible. The idea of a wheelchair kit like this doesn’t currently exist, but the students decided to take this as a challenge and run with it. 

Another student—5th grader Stone Ellis from White Pines—worked with us to bring his “Current Tracker” to life. He envisioned his product “making swimming much safer by showing the user what speed the current is, so they aren’t in danger of unknown rip currents.” He wanted it to be easy to use and understand. We used his concept to come up with a slim design with a propeller and sensor to detect the speed and location of the current. Stone wanted the tracker to be hi-tech, having the ability to show the speed of the current directly to your cell phone or watch, but also be portable to bring to the beach.  

Eve, our Industrial Design intern, had the opportunity to work directly with the students and design the final visualization of their concepts. “My experience with working with the students was great. I could tell the students have never had a chance to visit a design firm like Tekna, so that alone was fun to witness. It’s always cool to see people’s reactions when you sketch out their ideas right in front of them.” 

Both teams attended the award ceremony on June 12th and took home prizes! The RetroFit brought home Gold and Current Tracker received Silver. We’re so excited to see what the students come up with next year!

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