Model and Prototype Development — Learning by making.

IDUS 215

During winter quarter of my senior year, I embarked upon a journey. That journey was the class Model and Prototype Development. Throughout the course of this class, I learned how to take intangible ideas on paper, and realize they through various mediums. This class focused on learning how to rapidly prototype physical product concepts using pink foam, wood, and foam core.

This articles serves to document my process for each project, and the various deliverables I produced throughout this course.

Pink Foam Party

The first project we were given in this class was to rapidly prototype objects out of pink foam. We were tasked with creating 15 pink foam models of various everyday objects in one week. Each and every model needed to be accurate down to the millimeter.

We began by choosing a set of objects to reproduce, and learned about the various tools at our disposal.
Getting a lay of the pink land

Professor Woods critiquing our initial prototypes

First Iteration

On the second day of class, our professor asked us to bring in one pink foam prototype of an object of our choosing. For my first iteration, I chose to create a whiteboard eraser. While the object was relatively simple, it gave me an immediate understanding of how to create smooth indents, sculpt the general form of an object and texture the surface of a model.

After our first critique, our professor showed us the various methods, tips and tricks for creating accurate models quickly. He showed how to use the dremel correctly, and which grit of sand paper was appropriate at the different stages of sculpting and refining the objects form.

One of the first models that I created

As I began creating the different models for the project, I quickly realized that smaller, more detailed objects would be easier to replicate. The larger forms to much longer to sand from larger foam blocks and reduce to right size. With smaller objects, it would require more attention to detail, but also more chances to fail and start over without wasting too much time. I also learned to utilize the dremel to get as close to the final form as possible. Over time my progression through the 15 objects became much faster. After learning the techniques, I found it much easier to look at an object, and deconstruct how it might have been built, and replicate that process.

Final models

Below are some of the final models I created at the end of the project. I found the most difficult, yet rewarding objects to create were the lighter and the shoe. The both requires attention to detail, and taught me a lot about how the objects they were modeled after might have been constructed.

Some of the final objects I created.

Hardcore Foamcore

The goal of this project was to design and build a life-sized subterranean vehicle in under two weeks. We were split up into groups of 7, and at the end presented the project to the song ‘About a Girl’ by Nirvana.

Deciding what to build

As we embarked on this project, we began by creating some initial sketches and discussed as a group the direction we wanted to take with our concept. Below are some of the original sketches I brought to the table.

Initial sketches

Once we met to finalize the form factor we wanted the vehicle to take, we created a spreadsheet and list of materials to keep track of our respective material costs.

Model shop costs


To begin building the shell of the vehicle, we needed to ensure that it had a solid base. We started by building a tire track using solid blocks of pink foam. We knew the material would be sturdy enough to hold someone, and we decided to build outwards from that base.


As the form began to take shape, we encountered several challenges. It was hard to ensure that the various components we were building separately as a team would fit together, and communicating specific dimensions, and when people were going to build what was difficult given our teams widely varying schedule.

Bringing components together

Final product

During this project, I was responsible for the design, and building the tracks, frame, detailing, and back wheel. I hate foamcore… but in the end, it came together. Below is our final project, and our presentation.

Hardcore Foamcore Presentation
2nd Place!

The winner was decided by popular vote, so I created a snapchat geofilter to encourage my friends in the audience to vote for our team.

Snapcaht Geofilter

Plants, Pots, and Lots of Bondo

The goal of this project was to design and build a simple plant pot. We were required to make the original object out of wood, vacuum form the shell using plastic, and bond the two halves together

I began by sketching out various forms for my plant pot. I wanted something relatively small, with a simple form to avoid unnecessary complexity.

Sketching forms for my plant pot

After ideating various forms and color combinations, I began sourcing my materials. I milled two boards of Poplar wood and cut them each into 5"x5"x1" boards. I glued these together to create a solid block of wood which I could then turn on the lathe.

Glueing my wood block to lathe

Getting on the lathe

Using the lathe to create the form of my plant pot was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Starting the process was jarring since I needed to remove large chunks of wood until the object became cylindrical, but once the form smoothed it became easy to make granular adjustments to the form factor of the wood.

Once I created the wooden form, I used the band saw and a wooden jig to cut the piece in half. Accomodating for cerf was tricky, but I managed to get almost exactly 50% of the wooden block on one side. Once I had the mold for vacuum forming, I attached a piece of MDF to the bottom of the wooden block with screws, and vacuum formed the shelf

Vacuum formed shell

Unfortunately I forgot to cut a small draft angle on the piece of wood, which made it difficult to remove the plastic shell once vacuum formed. Once I got it off of the wooden block, I repeated the process so I had two halves of the shell. I glued these two halves together using a bonding agent that fuses the shells together. Once together, I used Bondo automotive filler to additively create a smooth surface that would hide the seam.

Unfortunately, I was gratuitous with my application of the bondo, making sanding it off to a smooth, seamless surface immensly difficult. Once the surface was smooth enough, I began applying primer.

Paint, sand, paint, sand…

Once the primer dried, I began applying a cherry red automotive paint to the plastic shell. After each additional layer of color was added, I would wet sand the paint layer to create micro-grooves in the surface of the shell, which would then be filled by the following layer of paint. I sanded the layers with progressively higher grit sandpaper. After applying four coats of red, I began applying three layers of clear coat to give the exterior a glossy shine. I repeated the sanding process four times before applying my final layer of clear coat. After the paint dried, I used automotive wax to clean up the surface.

Once the plant pot was completed, I planted a small bamboo shoot inside. Unfortunately that plant is no longer with us today. RIP.

Box project

Our fourth project in this class was to create a box to house some of our most valuable items. We needed to complete the project in under two weeks, and use a variety of wooden joinery to create the box.

For this project, I decided to step out of the box (no pun intended) and create an IOT wall mounted coat hanger. I decided to incorporate Google Home voice activation and Phillip’s Hue lights into my project.

Form exploration

I began by doing a lot of sketching and ideation for the general form of the coat hanger. Early on, I had the idea to attach a light strip to the coat hanger which could change color according to the temperature outside. With this in mind I began exploring forms.


After deciding on the form I wanted to create, I prototyped the coat hanger in pink foam. By prototyping in foam before building it out of wood, I was able to uncover what areas might give me some trouble during the process, and in what order I should build the components of the coat hanger.

After prototyping the original coat hanger, I was able to identify the three different types of joinery I would use: Peg and dowel joints, biscuit joints, and a Dato joint. It quickly became clear that the sliding hanger that could split into two parts would require the most accuracy.

Sliding mechanism

Trials and tribulations

Moving into the building phase, I began by sourcing my materials. I purchased a board of Ebony and Maple wood from Case Woodworking in Savannah. I also purchased the appropriate joinery from Gherry Lumber.

During the building process, the most difficult aspect of the project was making sure that the Interior cavity along which the knob of my coat hanger would slide worked smoothly. It was also difficult using the hand router to create the organic curves accurately, ensuring that the organic edges in the coat hanger base and knob lined up perfectly.

IFTTT Applets

Setting up the electronics

In order to have my Phillips hue lights be able to react to weather conditions outside, I needed to create a Weather Underground integration with the Philips Hue app. To do this, I created a custom IFTTT Applet that would allow the light strip attached to the coat hanger change colors from bright red (hot; 90 degrees) to dark blue (cold; 40 degrees). I also created a separate applet that would allow the lights to pulse light blue when it rains outside.

Final product

At the end, the final product was attractive, and felt finished, yet the core mechanism of the sliding coat hanger hook became stuck when I attached the two boards together.

Weather sensing coat hanger

Final Project — Stella

The goal of the final project was to create a finished product, and accurately reproduce it 5 times. We were tasked with designing packaging for the product, and were required to incorporate a wooden element and a resin casted element into the design.

For this project, I partnered with my friend Vernon Johnson who studies Computer Science at Columbia University. We wanted to build a Facebook Messenger bot that would allow users to send and receive Stellar Lumens cryptocurrency (XLM) and submit it to the Stellar Build Challenge

Stellar Build Challenge

I was tasked with developing the branding, UI, and the front-end code for the project. I wanted to explore how our solution might manifest itself as well as a physical product as well. I began by first developing the logo, UI and branding elements.

Below you can see the UI I designed, the logo and some of the explorations I made along the way.

UI Mockups
Branding explorations
Once I developed all of the UI and branding, I began developing the front-end code that would implemented into the bots webview explorer.
Developing the front end webview

Making it physical

Once I developed all the UI and branding, I went ahead and started working on the physical coins. I began by designing the coin in illustrator. I designed it so it would have a facebook messenger code on the back of it that users would be able to scan in order to access our bot. On the front of the coin, users would have their public address imprinted.

Initial Laser cut

Designing the packaging

Once I created the laser cut, I used it to create a mold for my resin casting. at this point I also began working on the design of my packaging. I built a small wooden box out of Ebony with small rounded corners, and inset slot for the coin to rest in.

I also used the box I created to hold the coin to vacuum a shell that would serve as the case to the display. Once I developed the case, I printed stickers of the branding to put on the coin case, as well as a cotton bag I purchased.

Below is the final product with all of the packaging I developed. You can follow up on our progress as we get closer to our submission deadline at