How Would A Third-Grader Redesign The Walkie-Talkie?

How Would A Third-Grader Redesign The Walkie-Talkie?

Bobby Genalo uses MakerBot Replicator and the creative genius of 3rd grade students to explore the question of the ideal cell-phone design for his final project at NYU's ITP program.

Allie Walker
  • 16 june 2012

PSFK had the chance to check out NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) end-of-year show last month and came away with 10 innovative ideas that remap the communications landscape. Check out one of our picks below.

For his thesis project, Bobby Genalo explores the concept of user-as-designer and play-as-education with Artphones, 3D printed models that transform ideas plucked from kids’ imagination into working walkie-talkies and cell phones. Genalo’s inspiration for the project stemmed from reading Shel Silverstein‘s, The Giving Tree to his niece- he wanted to show her that even though the tree was reduced to a stump by the end of the book, ‘with a little technical know-how, a stump needn’t be the end of [the] tree’s life.’ To prove his point, he created a 3D model of a tree stump with MakerBot’s Replicator, giving the tree stump a new life wowing his niece.

He then began thinking about ‘the malleability of life’ and other objects that could take on new meaning with the help of 3D printing. His thoughts turned to cell phones and the question of the perfect cell phone design- what would they look like if people treated them more like art and less than a commodity?

To explore this question, Genalo turned to the creative minds of 3rd grade students at Brooklyn’s The Packer Collegiate Institute. The students were given free range as to what design they wanted their custom walkie-talkies to take (Genalo decided 3rd graders were too young to have cell phones, so they made walkie-talkies instead). Students sketched their designs, and while at first glance they seem outlandish- the designs ranged from ketchup bottles to high-top sneakers, the students embraced Bobby’s challenge by incorporating the practical design elements needed to make the walkie-talkies work- the high-top sneaker’s ‘talk in’ feature is hidden within the laces of the shoe, the ketchup bottle’s batteries are built into its surface.

The students then sculpted their designs into clay, handing them over to Genalo to print from the MakerBot Replicator, an affordable 3D Printer. Genalo has turned four of the designs into real, working walkie-talkies, re-imagining the practical communication device as a whimsical art form.

Genalo’s project explores the realms of possibilities when design is open to anyone to interpret and customize, and he hopes Artphones inspires a new type of thinking that extends beyond cell phone design:

How can we spark a curiosity about the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of our everyday tools that motivates people to create?  Can we shift the dialogue about cell phones so that, at the end of its life, it can be celebrated like a child’s drawing on the fridge or a diploma on the wall? My hope is that Artphones will encourage people to blur the line between producer and consumer, empowering them to ask more questions and lead more creative, responsible lives.

Watch a video of the students describing their designs and scroll through pictures of Genalo working with the students on Artphones:

Bobby Genalo


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