ME444 on Fox59 News

 Purdue students look to invent the next great toy

By Joe LePage6:02 p.m. EST, December 8, 2011

West Lafayette, Ind.

It was a look into Christmas future. Ideas for high-tech contraptions are being hatched and assembled on the campus of Purdue University and student’s grades riding on how well their toy works.

“This is what everything culminates to,” said student Brandon Tillema. “This is make or break pretty much.”

There was a spy car with a driver-side ejector seat, a motorized hover-craft that shoots soft bullets. There was a zombie that will read you a story and other zombies you can shoot, in the “Zombie Graveyard.”

“We went back and forth,” said Tillema. “There is a huge sketch process phase. We went through more than 100 ideas and we started coming down with the idea of a movable gun-type laser.”

The laser moves back and forth, based on the movements of the person playing, it is called an IPad Integrated Toy.  Experts say it is where the future of toys is heading.

This class is far from all play and no work though. Students had one semester – just 16 weeks – to start and finish their toy concept of choice.

“Some of it is fun, some of it is frustrating, but it is a good way to learn this progress to become an engineer, in a fun way,” said student Molly Barber.

Professor Karthik Ramani said the goal of the class is to teach students skills you can not learn from a book.

“In the real world problems are not given to you,” said Ramani. “You have to find have to find problems to find opportunities, then you can transform your ideas.”

The best inventions end up in the mechanical engineering toy museum. Most of these students have their eyes on a shelf of a different sort.

“I think that is anybody’s desire in this class is to make something that people want to buy,” said Tillema. “No one goes out there striving to be mediocre.  Everybody wants to develop the next great toy.”