Twenty or so students gathered around art-school style high tables in the Mason School of Business design studio stared intently at a tiny black box on its own elevated platform in the center of the room.
The box was hollow — only a metal frame — empty except for a tiny platform and a needle shaped nozzle that hung down from the top. As the box started to make quiet rumbling sounds, students stood up, camera phones in hand, and circled around it. Slowly, at first, the nozzle started moving, heating up some magical material inside it, and it began to form an object out of nothing.
Friday, Nov 1. the College of William and Mary’s brand new Design Thinking Club hosted its first public event. Professor of operations management and information technology James R. Bradley gave a presentation called “3D Printing: Additive Manufacturing Goes Mainstream” to a full room. The Design Thinking Club, despite being formed in mid-October, arranged this event in two weeks, allowing Bradley to display his 3D printer.
VP of Marketing and Public Relations for the club Eva Colberg ’16 was pleased with the turnout and remarked about the indication it gave for the future growth of the club.
“I hope that we will become established enough that everyone on campus knows what the term ‘Design Thinking’ means when they hear it,” Colberg said. “I would like for the club to continue to be an educational resource, bringing in speakers and hosting workshops, but by that time I hope we would also have accumulated a resume of ideas that had actually been implemented, be it by us on campus or as part of a broader collaboration such as an IDEO challenge.”
Design Thinking is a school of thought that emphasizes creativity and consumer empathy to solve problems. It has a strict, scientific process that allows people to approach problems from a different perspective. The club was created after some of the club’s founders took a Sustainability Inspired Design course in the business school.
A variety of students, ranging from business majors to art majors and everything in between, showed up for Bradley’s presentation — but all were interested in Design Thinking.
During the presentation, Bradley argued that traditional manufacturing processes were going to be overcome by newer, more innovative ones.
“Manufacturing processes are historically ‘subtractive.’ [You have to] create a rough form through casting and gorging, and then you reduce it to a … more proper shape,” Bradley said. “3D printing is additive … which makes it less wasteful.”
Two evenings prior, at the club’s third executive meeting since its creation, four of the six board members met in a conference room in Alan B. Miller Hall. President and founder Beverly Wang ’14 described the club as all-inclusive and for students that thought of themselves as “creative types.”
“Design Thinking is a process of problem finding and problem solving,” Wang said. “It requires collaborative work of people from different fields, so we encourage all majors from both undergraduate and graduate programs to join our club.”
As the tiny nozzle in the black box moved back and forth Friday, Bradley explained that the printing process is done through the use of different materials. Liquid resin lasering, plastic resin extrusion, metal powders and even a paper/glue combo were all cited as different processes possible. The printer that Bradley brought along used plastic resin, which was melted by a heating unit and layered little by little until it formed a one-inch cube.
In the same way that the 3D printer creates materials by adding to a base layer after layer, the Design Thinking Club has started off with a small foundation and has been slowly adding layers.
Wang felt that the amount of people who showed up to the event was a good sign and commented on the club’s hopeful future.
“We have many passionate and dedicated students working together and we really want to make an impact on campus,” Wang said. “As more collaborative courses focusing on design, sustainability and business are offered at William and Mary, we hope to create more opportunities for students to learn more about solving creative problems in order to better adapt to a fast-changing world.”