Office warfare is being created in South West College, as David Searle gets ready to launch ‘Da Vinci Toys’, a collection of cardboard toys, including a catapult which shoots foam darts, which David believes can provide a bit of fun and light relief for the modern office environment.
David describes how the idea originally came about while he was lecturing part time in the college. ‘Three years ago, as part of a module on Business Improvement and Entrepreneurship I was giving, I needed an interactive model to demonstrate some of the techniques I was teaching. I decided to give the students catapults to work with, something very simple made out of lollypop sticks and elastic bands. I would give them one I produced myself, then part of the module would be how they improve on it by making it themselves, and in theory, bring it to market as a children’s toy.’From here David had the idea of literally bringing the idea to market himself. ‘The next year, I spoke to Diarmuid Kelly, who is the Product Design Centre Co-Ordinator in the colleges IDEA centre, and spoke about using the lab facilities there. From around January 2015 I was able to the use the facilities and teach myself how to use certain programs, and I thought, why can’t I make these for myself to sell as toys?’
‘I started my first model with wood, then decided this wouldn’t work, and eventually moved on to using cardboard. I was able to find a few local manufacturers that could provide what we needed, then Dairmuid said there’s an employee support programme running within the college during the summer. During the summer we got the dies, by august we were able to get the products made, and soon I was selling them at craft fairs.’
We know that nowadays lots of people live in offices from morning to night, and it’s important to have a bit of light relief at times; Da Vinci toys can fit into this market.'
It was at these craft fairs that David realised the toys might be more suitable to adults than children. He says, ‘while kids liked the toys, their parents weren’t always so keen; so we decided to target big kids, people aged between twenty and forty.’
‘In the final stages there are always teething problems,’ explains David. ‘Little obstacles which you don’t expect to turn up, but we got there. It’s not exclusively a mans toy, it’s for anyone, and fits into a wide range of careers. We know that nowadays lots of people live in offices from morning to night, and it’s important to have a bit of light relief at times; Da Vinci toys can fit into this market.'
For the office place, this could be something new; maybe even replacing some of the more extreme office jokes and games that we see on TV
. But projects like this are nothing new at South West College. Diarmuid Kelly explains, ‘David came to us a couple of years ago looking for assistance with the idea he had. I suggested he go on the employer support programme, funded by the department of employment and learning, and later apply for an innovation voucher. We were able to show him how to use the software which would allow him to create the products he had in mind, and from the programme he has eventually been able to take the product to market. David story is typical of the work we do in these programmes.’
'The facilities here are second to none: we’ve got 3’D printers, the laser cutter, a workshop you could pretty much do anything you want with, technologies which are readily available about in the industry.'
Likewise, David speaks highly of the support he has received, and describes how South West College students can avail of the same facilities. He says, ‘the facilities here are second to none: we’ve got 3D printers, the laser cutter, a workshop you could pretty much do anything you want with. We’re using technologies which are readily available about in the industry; I think this is one of the best investments I have seen in the college in a long, long time.
‘I see a lot of students come and go, scratching the surface of the ideas they have, but the journey from concept to something you can physically do something with is a long and often torturous journey. You need a lot of structure and understanding in finances and other technical aspects. There are students in this college, be they studying technology or engineering, and they will all at some point in time be involved in a new product introduction process. What they experience here can be a invaluable introduction.'