Researching PHysical Play experiences while Designing a modular elecTrOnic toy.

Project Overview
This project was a sponsored class that was designed to work with metal finishing and creat a project that apply anodizing and other forms of metal works. It was a completely open ended project, so I decided to think outside the box and create something different. The project was sponsored by the Metal Finishing Association of Southern California.

My goal with the project was to develop an interactive modular toy that applies metal finishing techniques in innovative ways while developing new designs in the toy industry for STEM learning in fun and engaging ways.
WHy electornic toy?
Before I began work on the project I was already inspired by creating a modular toy that uses electronics and sensors for an enhanced play and building experience.

With the use of metal finishing applications and techniques, I got excited to create something new within the toy industry. Metal is often not the primary choice of material within toy design, and that was an exciting challenge to design for.
TOOLS USED
The project was mainly designed and built with Solidworks and Arduino, as well as some design tools such as Sketch and Photoshop.
1st place AWARD
This project won first place scholarship award in this class from the Metal Finishing Association of Southern California.
ABOUT THE TOY

The product was designed to be a modular and customizable electronic toy that allows kids to build their own futuristic toys with a wide range of functions and features.

Creating new connections and unique vehicles or other objects will unlock new features and ways to play.

Research
The first stage of the project was to understand and research metal finishing techniques and how anodizing works. During the project, I got the opportunity to visit several places that works with metal finishing. The research continued with looking at existing toys that are built and designed for building with electronics.

There were several examples and projects that inspired me to do something different with my approach for electronic toys.
IDEATION
After the initial research, I spend a few weeks coming up with small prototypes that explored different modular parts and techniques. Working with electronics, I tried to develop simple way to make connections that are reliable and simple.

I spent a significant amount of time on play testing sdifferent sizes and forms to figure out what would be the most ideas design approach for the product.
Findings
During the development of the project, several problems and difficulties came up that were completely unexpected. Trying to apply metal parts to a toy design was especially complicated.

Designing components with electronics created problems with size, reliability, and safety.
how does the modular connectors work?
Modular connectors are designed to be as simple as possible. Each connector is designed to make sure there is no wrong way to connect the units and complete the circuit.

The simple butterfly like locking mechanics makes it easy to connect or remove it from another unit.
how does the moDular units WROK WITH the shileds?
Each modular component is designe with the attachable shields in mind. It was important to make sure that these shields are easily attachable and removable. To achieve this, small magnets built into the shield and modular units hold the parts in place. This solution also solved the problem of possible injury and component damage. If the unit is dropped or hit, the shields just fall of without breaking.
anodized metal shields DESIGNED as the core play experience.
Since anodizing was a core requirement for this project, these shields were designed to create a unique gameplay experience combined with the modular units. There is a wide variety of colors and type of anodized parts. Each color and form represent a unique gameplay element and equips the toy with special abilities such as power, speed or toughness.

The combination of these shield creates almost endless possibilities for each creation.
A WIDE variety of possibilities to build and create.
I spent a great amount of time thinking about the design of each individual part and to make sure that it is compatible with other components. It was especially important to make the combinations of these parts exciting and rewarding. There is a wide variety of objects and creations that can be built starting from robots, vehicles, spaceships and such.
experimenting with early ideas, forms, and modular connections.
At the early phase of the project I developed several smaller prototypes using materials such as wood, paper, and plastic. These prototypes were quickly built and gave me insight and inspirations for future development ideas. The point of this process was to explore and discover ways in which modular components could work together in an unified design. It was also crucial to test and collect feedback on these ideas and prototypes to be able to refine the concept even further.
reserching and Testing Designs and play experiences.
I spent some time researching plays experiences, the size of the product, and other important ideas that needed to be validated through play. Small Paper and  plastic prototypes were often play-tested, which gave significant insights into the product and experience. These insights were extremely valuable in how to make the toy more interesting and exciting as well as how to approach future designs and components.
prototyping physical components and electronics.
Building the electronics for this project was one of the most exciting part of the building and prototyping stage. I created a number of prototypes which explored different connections and electronic components such as LEDs, speakers, and buttons. Making the components interactive was a key element of the product. A large number of component were 3D printed and tested before designs for final forms and functionality were finalized.
designing and engineering components.
Engineering the components with "manufacturing" in mind was a long process since every small part needed to be designed from the ground up. I tried to make sure that every component could be broken down into smaller modular units which could be reused in other components as well.
How metal component and shields are being built.
While prototyping the plastic components for this project, I spent a significant amount of time on developing strategies and manufacturing steps in which shield could be efficiently created. I had to understand and think about steps to build these components in a simple and reliable way. I explored several different versions of shields and created a number of anodized parts and components.
what are the things that went wrong?
The initial idea of the project was completely changed after several iterations. The early prototypes were great start for building more complicated mechanics and electrical solutions.

One of the most complicated task was to make sure the electronics fit inside the body of each piece. This caused a lot of problems and constant rework for individual parts.

Since there was a lot of custom parts that I had to design, once I made a small change to the connectors, some parts needed to be redesigned due to scale changes or other more complicated internal changes.

Printing the parts and putting them together for a functioning prototype was also a very complicated task since I was handling a lot of individual parts.