Final Report Part 1: Desk Toy

My final project for this class is a scaled back version of the desk toy I originally planned to make. In this first part of my report, I will go into my original vision, how I had to pivot, and where I ended up in the end. The second part of the report will dive further into the fabrication process and next steps.

When I started this project, I had the idea to create a desk toy that brought together my engineering skills and my personal interests. To do this, I planned on creating a sort of jack-in-the-box design. My engineering skills would help me create the electrical system and the housing, and my personal interests would be the trinket that fulfilled the dynamic requirement for the project. Below is a sketch of my original idea.

I had two main aesthetic choices when thinking about this project. The first was minimalism, which focused around the housing. I didn’t want the box to be too flashy or distracting, as that would detract from the trinket, which was supposed to be the focal point of the project. The second was “fandom”, which was the trinket. It was going to be something related to my person interests, such as the bands I listen to/shows I watch/etc. This was where the attention was supposed to be drawn, so I wanted it to be done really well and be something eye catching and interesting.

In order to get my desk toy from paper to reality, I needed to acquire a good number of materials, most of which would makeup the electrical system.

  • Acrylic, for the box
  • Acrylic or PLA, for the trinket
  • Switch
  • Arduino
  • Battery
  • Motor
  • Wiring
  • Support material for the trinket
  • Miscellaneous hardware

Unfortunately, I never made it past my early sketches, as campus resources were closed just before I was able to acquire my materials and start manufacturing.

This posed a significant problem. How could I laser cut, 3D print, solder, etc. without the workshops on campus? Without those resources, I essentially had no project. So I decided that in order to create something that even remotely resembled my original idea, I was going to have to scale back my ideas. This led me to change my design from a motorized dynamic component to a manual dynamic component. The rest of my materials would also be re-sourced from things I already owned. Specifically, from scrap wood that my parents had left over from a recent project at their house.

My new list of materials became much shorter, but much more accessible, which made me feel more confident about my abilities to complete the project.

  • Wood (for the base)
  • Wooden dowels (for the posts)
  • Wire (for crankshaft)
  • Ribbon
  • Trinket (probably paper)

With this pivot, my aesthetic also changed. Although my trinket would still be “fandom” related, the other aesthetic changed from minimalism to “found object”. It felt a lot like I was revisiting the upcycle project, since most of my materials were things that I already owned and could repurpose.

In the end, my desk toy is something that I am pretty proud of, considering everything that happened this semester. I’d definitely like to improve it, and hopefully make something more in line with my original vision.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • miles radakovitz
    April 30, 2020 11:11 am

    Hi Mary,
    I really like that you decided to do something like a desk toy! As someone who is fidgety I know how much having something to do with you hands can make things easier when it comes to studying. Also, I really like that you were able to make a physical artifact despite all of this! it reminds me a lot of the pretotyping phase of advanced product design where you demonstrate the function of the device without making a super high grade prototype. If you were to do this differently what changes would you make in terms of functionality?

  • Justin Engbrecht
    April 29, 2020 11:16 am

    As a neutral question, I asked if she had thought of what she would use for the trinkets in a future iteration of her desk toy design. She responded it would likely be the same paper spider from MCR’s “Danger Days” album cover.

  • Noah Verspohl
    April 29, 2020 11:13 am

    Statement of meaning:
    I like how you were able to pivot your design to accommodate the situation while still maintaining your overall goals.
    The simplicity of your new project has it’s own elegance.

  • Christopher Lehr
    April 29, 2020 11:08 am


    I like how you made your design off of interests that you like. I think it is cool to pull inspiration from your own life. It does stink that campus was closed but I think you still crushed it even after the trouble of the virus stepping in. Do you think you will remake the piece using the materials you originally had planned to do?

  • Hey Mary, I really liked how you went into detail about how you adapted to the current Covid-19 situation. I think your final product is still something to be proud of and you can always create your original idea once the campus reopens! I really liked how you were able to adapt and change your design so that it still resembles your original idea but with upcycled materials!

    • Thanks Bryan! I’d like to revisit this project again once I have to resources available to me so that I can make my original idea, so hopefully that can happen over the summer or in the fall.


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