This Week's Challenge: Robot Army Mail-Order Kit

In the back of a comic book, tiny black-and-white ads beckon to you with their mysterious treasures. Will you send away for a model rocket that you can launch in your backyard? Perhaps you could use a decoder ring to help you trade messages with your best friend in math class. Or would you like a set of plans for constructing your very own robot? Just send us $8.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling…

Since you’re a designer, you don’t need to buy the plans for making a robot. You can design one on your own. And in the process, you can glean some insight into the realm of paper engineering—where you must not only become adept at learning how to shape flat substrates into a variety of forms, but also be able to externalize your design vision into a tangible list of steps that clearly conveys how to bring your idea to life.

In 60 minutes, draw up easy-to-follow plans to construct a robot of your own design out of various household materials: paper, pipe cleaners, buttons, cardboard tubes, etc. Then, give the plans and materials to a friend, then watch and take notes as she builds what you’ve designed. The robot must be able to be built in ten minutes or less.

Shown above: designer Grace Cheong wanted to make sure her final robot design was possible to build in five minutes flat. She handed out the materials and the instructions to assemble her robot to a series of test subjects, and from their response she reduced the number of steps necessary to create her robot and meet her time constraint.

Here’s the instructions for making your own!

Every week, I’ll be sharing with the design community a creative challenge, alongside sample solutions from working designers and students. The above challenge is from my forthcoming book for HOW Design Press, Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, which is out in late November.

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