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Core team members: 4; February 2007

Olin College focuses on hands-on learning and human-centric design. One of our first challenges as engineering students was to create a biologically inspired toy swimmer that 4th graders would enjoy.

Our team picked the adorable emperor penguins for inspiration.

After prototyping numerous swimming penguin mechanics, I pitched a no-moving-parts design that was meant to be used like a torpedo to the team. Because of the design simplicity of our idea, we were able to build an entire fleet of penguins and props for a game/challenge targetted at the fourth-graders that would evaluate our project. We were the only team that was able to provide a social playing experience for the kids, a "penguin race". We did not let the engineering challenge get in the way of pursuing what's important at the end of the day (at least to me), which was to build an enjoyable, informative and emotional experience for our users.

Competencies gained

  • User-oriented design
  • Toy design
  • Design reviews
  • Machining


  • Product designer
  • Mechanical prototyper
  • Presenter