CAR-board: Cardboard, duct tape and engineers!

If we were asked to draw a car, I bet a high percentage of people would sketch something similar as in Figure 1. Drawing something simple could be considered as a good representation of any concept. However, would you propose the same design if you had the restriction to only use cardboard and duct tape to win a CAR-board race?

Figure 1. Sketching a Car

It might sound weird, but literally that was part of my final course’s evaluation. We needed to build a car made out of cardboard and duct tape that could carry one team member for about 100 meters in the shortest possible time.

When the task of designing a car was given, my team decided to brainstorm in order to come up with a competitive proposal to win the race. During the meeting, we discussed a variety of shapes and sizes that we considered as the most powerful to implement in the design of our car. At the end of the session, we concluded that the only essential pieces needed to provide movement were the axle and the wheels.

“What if we build a big axle with a wheel?! Andrea can be inside the axle… and to avoid her spinning out, we can include some bearings!”

As Innovation Engineering students, we chose to knock the trend, try something creative… and it happened! We built our own representation of a car by using its only indispensable parts: axle, wheel and bearings. As you can see in Figure 2, I was INSIDE the axle! Unfortunately, we didn’t win first place, but we won the ‘creative-design’ category which was way more exciting for us.

Figure 2. Car-board (Marian Lozano, Armando Menchaca, Daniela Peña and Andrea Díaz)

This day was full of memories and lessons that made me realize the following:

  • There are times in which we limit our creativity because of perceptions embedded in our society. For example, cars, houses or trees are concepts which are expected to be drawn in a certain way. Why don’t we dare to train more our right-brain to present new ideas?
  • Instead of thinking about endless possibilities about what might go wrong, it’s really valuable to fail fast and smartly. Prototyping is a great method to understand the iterations that can be executed in order to improve the concept.
  • Focusing on the problem rather than the solution, can guide you to get further since the exploration of the actual necessity presents the ‘pain-points’ needed to be attacked.
  • Random objects can be the inspiration to create something new…even cooking utensils! In this case, as you can see in Figure 2, a roller pin was even more helpful than an actual car to influence the design of our car-board.
Figure 3. Dani’s legs + Andrea’s torso

Don’t be afraid to explore new possibilities and remember that the best design is the one that doesn’t need something less nor extra. Limited resources aren’t enough to block our potential creativity. In this case, cardboard and duct tape made us think outside the box.