I was part of a college student group involved in MyMachine. When we walked out of the elementary classroom at the end of step one in the MyMachine methodology, we received the assignment of creating a First-Aid-Kit-For-Sculpting-Castles-In-The-Sand. We designed a great tool just for that.
Fast forward to my graduation from the university of applied sciences, when I started applying for jobs in different companies. In the end, the company that hired me chose me above other candidates because of my experience with MyMachine. This company already knew about MyMachine and explained that if I was capable of dealing with such a challenging endeavour to create dream machines invented by young children, I would certainly qualify for the job.
This company is globally active in the field of stage design for entertainment artists. In retrospect, I now refer to my first job as MyMachine Extra-Large. I am now part of a team that designs stages for events like the London Olympics, Azerbaijan FIFA 2012 Women’s World Cup, and the world tours of artists like Madonna, Coldplay, Muse, Jon Bon Jovi, The Who, The Rolling Stones, etc. As these production teams request all manner of things to design these stages, the challenge for us goes beyond just making sure these specifications would be made possible. The extra layer of complexity is that any created needs to be able to fold back into trucks to travel around the world. In short, my job now entails: listening to a strict, very demanding customer and making it happen. Yes, precisely like MyMachine!
7 years ago, I was a 12 years old kid sitting in my last year of Elementary School. Out of the blue enters a group of university engineering students saying they would try to make a working prototype of any dream machine we would come up with. I was flabbergasted.
That very moment was very decisive in my life. I just knew, right there, right on the spot, what I wanted to do later in life. I wanted to become an engineer, a product design engineer.
As I was participating in MyMachine as a young kid, I saw how these university students performed design iterations to close in on the final design solution for the dream machine. I was thrilled to see and learn about the engineering behind it all.
One year ago, I enrolled at the university to become an industrial product designer. MyMachine taught me to appreciate, what we now call, STEM/STEAM skills and made me realise that this would be my future. Today I’m so thrilled to take part in MyMachine for the second time in my life. Now, as a university student. I hope I’ll be able to inspire yet another girl or boy to acknowledge their dreams and discover their talents.
It is a pleasant, almost Buddha-like type of atmosphere in the air pumped with pure curiosity. Two dozen pairs of bright eyes closely watching us with expectations of what is going to happen. I am looking at each one of those small future inventors, trying to estimate how many inventions they will come up with today. So we get started. We are explaining our studies and professions, trying to speak the language they understand. Not easy at first, but as the MyMachine process was evolving, all of us grew into it.
In the real world, as a designer, I have to listen very carefully to my customer. My job is to find a solution and convert it into a producible and visually attractive product. In the world of MyMachine, every child is our customer. Children are free and without any knowledge of the physical and technological constraints. For this reason, they demand the most’ common’ characteristics like flying, invisibility, antigravity…all at once. It gives us the idea that the small task-maker is the most demanding customer ever. Add to this the fact that the budget for making a working prototype is somewhat lower than what, let’s say, NASA would assign.
Well, it’s up to us – a group of design students at the Technical University in Košice – to tackle this situation. We went into the elementary classroom to have the children inventing new dream machines. We have succeeded in that. In return, we have to tackle our principles and ideas in our heads far beyond our well-established conformity. This dynamic transmission of energy is beneficial to all of us. Indeed as we get older and more experienced, our creativity gets limited. It’s such a paradox. With all the textbook knowledge that we gain, we also get some thought limits of what is possible and what is not. By learning at college, we tend to forget to use our free and open mind to search for solutions. MyMachine helps us to go back to our free mind and creativity. And it brings together people who might not even think of meeting ever.
The students at our Industrial Product Design faculty are enrolled at a creative faculty. When they first come on campus, they think they are clever. They look at creativity as a necessary competence for someone who aims at becoming a designer. And that’s correct, of course.
Nevertheless, what we actually encounter, are students that are not really creative. One of the first design exercises we give them is designing a new kind of everyday appliance, like a bicycle. When we look at the results, we notice how conditioned their brains are as their designs turn out to confirm how a bike looks. Meaning that they’ve lost the ability to be really creative.
That’s why it’s always an incredible opportunity for them to participate in MyMachine. As they learn to appreciate how small children can come up with ideas just like that. The university students learn to be creative again through their MyMachine experience. And on top of that, it’s an authentic assignment that very much resembles their future jobs. Including budget restraints, customer demands, production facility constraints, and, not to forget, 21st-century skills like communication, collaboration etc. No better way to learn the skills of their future jobs than to participate in MyMachine.
Ronald Bastiaens – Dean Industrial Product Design at HOWEST University of Applied Sciences (Belgium)
To a designer, working with children is always a ‘terrible’ challenge. Children are creative and wish to have things, just as we do. Contrary to us adults, they’re more accessible, more honest and more truthful, as the filters that restrain our thoughts, words and acts do not exist in their world. And they always beat us because they’re the ones who are right. There is no reason to not build a machine to scare ghosts, or that has the purpose of getting balls from the school roof or adding certain playful randomness to the moment of announcing homework – transforming it with the singular goal of altering it into having fun!
It wasn’t always easy to materialize the ideas from these kids, but the end note is always the same: if you can dream it, you should be able to do it! And, in the end, we realized that if we – the adults – were able to have ideas like the ones children have more often, candidly centred in solving the real everyday problems, maybe we all lived a bit better. In reality, we, the adults participating in this project, almost all being students, teachers or professionals, ended up being the true apprentices in this adventure.
My students at my faculty (at the Caldas da Rainha College of Arts and Design) and we as professors learned, laughed, had fun, worked hard, and teamed up with people we didn’t know previously but were able to contribute to achieving a common goal. What else could we ask for? The children have made possible this regain of sheer honesty, which made us all become a little better persons.
For us, students of design, the MyMachine assignment created an opportunity to collaborate and design for the most demanding clients: children. Although we did not interfere with the invention in the IDEA phase, its completion for the manufacturing phase for a secondary school was a marvellous challenge left to us.
I appreciate the opportunity to cooperate with children and collaborate with colleagues in the field, with whom we managed to transform children’s ideas into a concept and, in the end, a working prototype. We do not participate in similar cooperative projects at school, so I deem it a great teamwork experience.
Tibor Ďuriš, Design student at the Faculty of Arts of TUKE University (Kosice, Slovakia).