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    Teenpreneurs Use Tinkercad to Design Medical Devices for Children

    Donald Bell
    Published on - January 18, 2019 by Donald Bell

    Teachers, Inspiration

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    Ever had an idea that was hard to explain?

    According to Vicky Wu Davis, a tech entrepreneur who spent over a decade in the videogame industry, this is typically the first step in an entrepreneur’s journey. And she thinks Tinkercad is a perfect tool for helping those in this phase of the process.

     

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    Vicky Wu Davis, tech entrepreneur and Youth CITIES founder, recently sat down with the Tinkercad team at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Cambridge, MA, where she is based.

     “If you want to break away from the status quo, that means that, by nature, your idea is something that is new to other people,” said Wu Davis. “That means other people haven’t thought of it yet; or if they have thought of it, they haven’t gotten through the next few steps.”

    “So in order to get people on board, you’re going to have to figure out how to excite them about it,” she added. In addition to its ability to produce an engaging visual model for expressing a complex concept, Wu Davis believes that Tinkercad could also be used as an aid for germinating an idea.

     

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    Youth CITIES teams come together from a variety of backgrounds and interests to solve problems - sometimes using unconventional materials and methods.

     

    Wu Davis, who now teaches innovation and entrepreneurship to Boston-area middle- and high- school students through her nonprofit Youth CITIES, recently wrapped up her latest program in which she introduced CAD as a new medium for her students to communicate their visions.

    Youth CITIES “L3 Innovation Challenge” is a design-thinking bootcamp that mimics a hackathon (spreading it out over seven weeks instead of 24 hours straight.) To make the experience feel real, students are expected to roleplay as part of the innovation team at Boston Children's Hospital.

     

    youth cities collage2 The L3 Innovation Challenge classes are held at LabCentral in Cambridge, MA, a shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high-potential life-sciences and biotech startups. Students role play as health professionals and receive mentorship from members of the innovation community, such as technologist and startup investor, Brendan Kohler (left).

     

    A central challenge is issued each year, and students work in teams to create tech solutions that thoughtfully integrate the "human side" of STEM. This year, students had to incorporate the use of smart textiles to address pediatric healthcare, showing the evolution of their solutions through multiple low- and high- fidelity prototypes.

     

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    Students experiment with low-tech prototyping using common materials like paper and recyclables.

     

    “To me, prototyping is basically having something that allows you to test your hypothesis,” said Wu Davis. “In order to do that, you have to kind of do a show-and-tell to somebody. And that person shouldn’t necessarily have to be technical.”

    This year, students learned the Tinkercad to Fusion 360 workflow in order to create professional renderings of their product designs to share in their pitch decks.

     

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    Tinkercad was introduced to students as a way of creating digital prototypes of their ideas.

     

    In November, the students showcased their work, which included stylish bangles that are actually insulin-regulating instruments intended to help kids with diabetes; stress monitoring systems; diaper diagnostics; bodysuits to cool babies’ body temperatures; and more.

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    For the final showcase, students presented their products using a variety of modalities and media.

     

    The panel of judges included digital health experts and venture capitalists. The winner, SmartGlux, created a smart bandage that uses aspiration-injection and smart monitoring for primary school kids with diabetes.

    For Wu Davis’s next program in the spring, which she calls the March-to-May Bootcamp, she plans to integrate Tinkercad into the very early stages of prototyping, and not at the end.

    “There’s various levels of prototyping that you need to do,” said Wu Davis. “Sometimes early on it’s just validating an idea, so doing customer discovery interviews, [for example].”

    When Wu Davis guides her students through launching their ventures, they are often working in teams in which some students are working on ‘looks like’ prototypes, while others are focused on ‘works like’ prototypes, because, according to Wu Davis, usually these are mutually exclusive at the prototyping stage.

    “I would love to be able to broaden the use of Tinkercad for not just the tech-minded students, but any kind of student who has any kind of venture idea,” said Wu Davis. “I wouldn’t necessarily see Tinkercad as the first rung of low-fidelity prototype. A napkin scratch is very low-fidelity prototype. I would even say the cardboard-diorama sort of thing is not exactly low fidelity, but if you couple that with Tinkercad - depending upon what aspect of the storytelling you’re trying to do - I view that as more of a medium.”

    Wu Davis concluded: “And that’s what I think Tinkercad should be used as initially, a storytelling tool.”

     

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    Youth CITIES students pitch their product ideas in the final showcase. Wu Davis plans to continue to teach her students Tinkercad as another medium they can use to tell their story.

     

    -Written by Kellyanne Mahoney.