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Students design prototype products for Alabama nonprofit

Thursday, January 28, 2016

LAWRENCE — Over winter break 14 students from the Departments of Design and Architecture traveled to Greensboro, Alabama. There, they spent 12 to 16 hours each day for two weeks designing, building, testing, breaking, rebuilding, sometimes cursing, but never giving up in their quest to develop two new products of made of locally sourced bamboo.

The fruits of their labors are prototype push-bikes and paddleboards that can be manufactured and marketed by local craftspeople who work at HERObike, a nonprofit bike shop in Greensboro. Professor of Industrial Design Lance Rake and Design Department Chair Andrea Herstowski, who have been bringing KU students to work with HERObike for some five years, led the students.

The intensive, hands-on experience enables students to learn to work in teams. During a 72-hour “design blitz” they were immersed in every aspect of the process of creating new products: a bamboo harvest in a torrential downpour, prototype production in HERObike’s shop. Their early drafts debuted during midnight push-bike trials on Greenboro’s main street and a sink-or-swim paddleboard launch on a nearby lake one morning at dawn.

“This immersive experience is a great way for students to practice what they know and push their comfort zones. They have to pick up new skills fast,” Herstowski said. “This is my fourth time down to Greensboro with students, and each time I am impressed with how well it goes. They are together 24 hours a day, housing is tight, deadlines are tight, and the days are long.”

The students learn about the effects of their decisions on the time, labor and costs of production, and what happens when their design doesn’t stand up to the rigors of everyday use. In particular, they gain an appreciation of how a successful design that can be manufactured and sold can positively affect the economy of an entire town.

“The two weeks I spent in Greensboro taught me more about teamwork, design and service than I could have learned in a semester. I feel honored to have been a part of a determined group of passionate people,” said Veronica Villhard, a St. Louis industrial design student.

Echoing Veronica's thoughts, architecture student Alexandra Frost, Omaha, said, “It was truly inspiring to get to work with such dedicated people and see design being used to help this town and its people.”

HERObike is one of a number of businesses opened by the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization, a community development organization dedicated to ending rural poverty in areas in and around Hale County, where Greensboro is located.

”Our small rural Alabama town came alive when the Jayhawks arrived,” said Pam Dorr, of Hero Housing. “Everyone came away impressed by this group of caring students who gave up vacation time with friends and family to serve in Greensboro. It is inspiring to spend time with young people that share their talent and passion."

To see a gallery of Sidekick push-bike photos and videos made during the class, go to: https://go.ku.edu/27hP29.

Students who participated in the class include: Chelsea Anderson, Overland Park; Laura Blake, Derby; Kevin Bower, Lee's Summit, Missouri; Drew Buffkin, De Soto; Jacob Crawford, Lenexa; Lars Erickson, Olathe; Alexandria Frost, Omaha; Sydney Grimm, St. Louis; Alex Guinn, Overland Park; Jack Hoard, Topeka; Michael Hornsby, Kansas City, Missouri; Hanan El Shoubaki, Los Angeles; Veronica Villhard, St. Louis; and Rebekah Winegarner, Overland Park.

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Red Hot Research: Graduate Edition
Friday, November 17 | 4 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
The Commons, Spooner Hall, 1340 Jayhawk Blvd.
Red Hot Research brings together scholars from all disciplines, speaking for six minutes each in Pecha Kucha–inspired presentations. Audience members are encouraged to connect with the speakers and each other during breaks. This session features graduate student research.

Slow Art Sunday: Amida Buddha (Amitabha) 
Sunday, November 19 | 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Gallery 407, 1301 Mississippi St
Slow down at the Spencer and spend time getting to know one great work of art. Slow Art Sunday features one work for visitors to contemplate and converse about with Museum staff. In November, get to know Amida Buddha (Amitabha).

Performance: Aspects of Liszt 
Sunday, November 19 | 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Gallery 317, Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 1301 Mississippi St
Distinguished Emmy-winning author, critic, radio and film producer David Dubal joins KU international concert artist Steven Spooner in an afternoon of piano music from the era of the Spencer Museum’s origins and fascinating commentary on the legendary Franz Liszt. This concert is part of the Museum’s centennial celebration of our collection.

Day After Thanksgiving Program: Magic Marbles 
Friday, November 24 | 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The National Museum of Toys/Miniatures, 5235 Oak St. Kansas City, MO
It’s a day of marble magic with fun for the entire family. Explore the museum’s special exhibit Playing for Keeps: The VFW Marble Tournaments, 1947-1962, and try your hand at “knuckling down” during a marble lesson. Then, pick out your own marble and turn it into a piece of wearable art to take home with you. Included with museum admission.

Global Film Festival
Thursday, November 30 | 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Rm. 309 1301 Mississippi St
Curated by first-year students, the Global Film Festival features four films exploring ideas in Spencer Museum exhibitions. This film is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Power Clashing: Clothing, Collage, and Contemporary Identities. The film will be announced on the Museum’s website.

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