User Research, Prototype, Business Model


In the summer of 2013 I participated in an alternative learning course called Project Breaker. The course hand selects 15 young adults and gives a topic for them to research. Our topic was The Future of Stuff, and thus we met with industry leaders and thinkers on the manufacturing in the 21st century - everything from printed knitwear and maker spaces to biogenetics. With breakout sessions lead by IDEO, Smart Design and other design thinkers, we analyzed our data, highlighted needs and ideated. From there, we broke out into smaller groups and prototyped solutions to these problems that were supported by a sustainable business model. At the end of the two weeks, we did a two minute pitch of the final idea to friends and investors. 

QBz is the final pitch created by myself and Steven Feis. They are modular toys that allow children to learn about making in simple ways while adding personality. The toys they create are fitted with an RSID chip and interact with museums and educational venues around the city. 

Topic Research & Needs

From our initial research, we isolated 2 needs: 

After brainstorming and testing the idea, we also learned:

Our user research included conversations with Maker's Row, The New York Hall of Science's Maker Space, Makerbot Org, Stoll, Shapeways, IDEO Toy lab, Employees at the interactive booths at FAO Shwartz, Manager of [Story], Babysitter at Painted Pot (a pottery painting store), Parents and kids at the park, Mothers at Build-A-Bear.

Idea Evolution

Our initial idea focused on the QBz being more technical and teaching basic engineering. We wanted a large storefront experience that would be sponsored by leaders in different industries, like a GM sponsored month where all parts would be motor based. 

We quickly realized the immense complexity of what we were attempting to achieve and decided to do rapid prototyping and field research to guide us.


Our prototypes were simple Styrofoam cubes stuck together with toothpicks. On the surface we drew eyes, mouths and other decorations. We found that this alone got kids excited about making their own. In our research, we saw how little it took to make kids feel like they made something. We wanted to capitalize on that pride while encouraging constant making. 

The QBZ - Consumer


The QBZ - Business

QBz solve unique challenges in the market:

  • Constant cycle of new purchase
  • Caters to interests of the child
  • Turns learning and making into a social activity
  • Flexible system is great for partnerships
  • Drives museum attendance and revenue
  • Allows for an online community that protects youth privacy