Spring 2012

Role: Mechanical Engineer, User Researcher

Team: 5 students (Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering)

Skills: Sketching, Rapid Prototyping, Mold Design, User Testing.

Tools: Machine Shop


My team created a two part ball that pops apart mid-air to add an exciting element to games of catch.  We took the product from concept through many mechanism prototypes to a molded functioning prototype.  I focused on prototyping of multiple mechanisms for the pop feature and designing of the ball form in addition to play-testing our product at multiple sessions at the Boston Children's Museum.

Our initial prototypes tackled the idea of a creating a ball that transitions midair into a flying toy.  Prototypes ranged from a base form with wings that would break free from a retention mechanism such as velcro to a ball held together by a magnet until a spring forced the two sides apart.  Internally, we ran tests to determine the functionality and durability of our prototypes.  At the Boston Children's Museum, we presented prototypes to young children to evaluate ease of use and excitement-factor.

Our final prototype of the BallPop! relied on a suction cup to keep the two halves of the ball together and a surgical tubing slingshot to force them apart midair.  We used a familiar football shape that splits into two new forms.  There was a safety concern with the long tapered end of the internal half, so we iterated on the original design to finally create a form that was fully covered in foam and rubber components to shield any sharp parts.

We presented BallPop! to an audience of close to 500 students, faculty, and members of the MIT community. 

© 2019 Tara Pratap Ebsworth