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IHTFP: I Help Tykes Floss Properly?

A design-class challenge
November 14, 2006

Ask mechanical-engineering doctoral student Barry Kudrowitz why his Toy Product Design class spent last spring designing dental gizmos, and he will tell you, “I went to the dentist.” His hygienist, Wendy Westford, thought up this year’s theme for his public-service design class at the Edgerton Center: toys to encourage kids to brush and floss.

FlossZilla dispenses floss and toothpaste. (Credit: Donna Coveney/MIT)

Guided by Westford and toy makers from Hasbro, students sketched ideas, built mock-ups, and finally created working prototypes. For some, it was a first experience with the creative thought, shop skills, and computer modeling programs used to make toys.

The class “definitely got me into product design,” says mechanical-engineering major Karlen Ruleman ‘09. Her group designed Flava-Rama, a device that lets children mix their own toothpaste flavors. Another group created FlossZilla, a dinosaur that squirts toothpaste from its head and dispenses floss from its tail. Dental products hang upside-down in a magnetic box called the Batcave. R2Dtooth hands users a light-saber toothbrush, and Harry Potter’s Magical Toothbrush levitates in its holder.

A second-grade class at the Fletcher Maynard Academy in Cambridge reviewed the prototypes and “liked everything,” ­Kudrowitz reports.

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