The Power of Prototyping

Why is prototyping so important?

Well, imagine you try to create a pedal-driven vehicle, but you have to invent it the same day that you’re given this task. Seems impossible, right?

It is! You wouldn’t start exactly where you’re supposed to end.

Prototyping makes projects more approachable and financially accessible. A lack of resources will limit your creativity, but even the simplest materials will be enough to start a project. In my personal experience, I have the most fun utilizing pipe cleaners, cardboard, hot glue, and pom poms to create a rough image of the object I have in mind.

Prototyping requires patience for the multiple trials and experiments that are a definite part of the process. You don’t want to stick to one idea, but rather be receptive to improvements and modifications that can develop a project further and expand its possibilities. Starting with a low fidelity prototype made quickly with things like cardboard and duct tape makes it easier to get feedback and make adjustments as you make more prototypes that get closer and closer to your final product.

Prototyping is something anyone can do so we wanted to include a quick prototyping exercise. You will need some materials; here are some more accessible items:

  • Paper/Sticky Notes
  • Pencil/Pen
  • Cardboard
  • Hot Glue
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Pom Poms
  • Tape
  • Markers

Timing yourself for each task is optional, but keeps you on track!

To Start:

For 2 minutes, write down as many ideas or features as you can for the given prompt on some sticky notes.

For 5 minutes, combine some of your ideas and create a sketch of the prototype on a piece of paper.

For 10 minutes, use the materials to build your prototype!

Our prompt for you is “friendly robot.”

You can do this exercise as many times as you like. Remember to work safely and have fun!

four example prototypes of "friendly robots". From left to right: a stick figure made of pipecleaners and a foam sphere wearing a backpack made out of cardboard and pipecleaners; a smiling figure made from two cardboard boxes taped together (the top box is slightly smaller to make a head); a figure made out of an upside down paper cup, pipecleaners, a foam sphere and two feathers, and a pile of pom poms with googly eyes wearing a pair of felt mittens.
Four robot prototypes made in one of our intro to prototyping labs.