From Cardboard & Popsicle Sticks to a Modular Toy

Rapid Iteration

We’ve made Roominate fun by testing out every iteration with girls and watching firsthand what gets them excited! We were surprised to have so many parents and kids happy to help us out, and incredibly grateful to them. We learned so much more (and faster!) in one testing session compared to the two of us sitting alone for hours, trying to figure out what the next step was.

Some weeks we were booked every other day for testing at various houses! We used the days in between to quickly iterate. We’d gather feedback one day, incorporate it into the design from our desks at StartX the next morning, then take an evening trip to the laser cutters at TechShop. By the next morning, a new generation prototype would be ready for user testing!

Prototyping on a (Tight) Budget

With rapid iteration comes countless prototypes, and costs can add up very quickly. Being stereotypical poor grad students, we were forced to be very creative with our prototypes. We learned that Walmart sells extraordinarily cheap craft items. We dremeled motors from fans bought at Daiso and also found a wide range of products for only $1.50 each. We bought cheap socks to cut up as carpet, taking advantage of Target’s dollar aisle. Our friends at E&M Labs let us use their wood scraps from laser cutting Skallops. We scavenged through the dollar scrap bin at Tap Plastics. We learned to stay lean by creatively repurposing common household goods, along with using all the scrap material we could find.

Not only did we stay lean in our prototyping materials, but we also had some key resources available to us. TechShop gave us cheap and fast access to powerful prototyping tools, E&M Labs generously let us come in after hours to use their laser cutters, and StartX gave us free prototyping space (our desks!) in the AOL building.

Working with Constraints

We worked with numerous constraints while developing Roominate. Budget constraints pushed us to view everything around us to have potential as prototyping material. Our very first prototype for Roominate was made from a cardboard oatmeal box we had on our desk back in April!

We hope to instill this same creative view of the world into young girls everywhere with Roominate. We are all surrounded by everyday items that can be transformed into something completely unexpected and extraordinary. Everything around us has more than one use, and it is only up to us to decide what it will be!

Take a look at the evolution of Roominate — the building toy for girls. See if you can spot a cut up pink mop serving a new purpose in one of the earlier pictures!

Early concept made from cardboard


Exploring the user experience with foam core and popsicle sticks


Introducing more building with laser cut wooden prototypes


Refining the user experience at Maker Faire


Changing material from wood to plastic


Modularity of six unique building pieces