New Collaboration Makes Food Products with Personality

A student from the South China Institute of Technology learns how to build a prototype at the Georgia Tech School of Industrial Design.

At Georgia Tech this summer, similar schools from opposite sides of the planet met to engage in product prototyping. The reality of industrial design is that it is a global business, says Jim Budd, chair of the Georgia Tech School of Industrial Design.

“International exposure is an extremely valuable asset for any Industrial Design student in today’s business environment,” Budd explains, “and we are working to develop strategic collaborations with schools offering similar programs around the world.”

For three weeks, 12 undergraduate students and two faculty members from the South China University of Technology came to Georgia Tech to participate in an intensive workshop run by SID faculty.

Collaboration of Design and Technology

Students used Georgia Tech's School of Industrial Design-supported Interactive Product Design Lab (IPDL), which offers a range of sensor-based technologies. In addition to IPDL, the School houses the Body Scan Lab and the General Motors Human-Machine Interaction Lab. These three labs set SID apart, assistant professor Wei Wang observes: “We have resources not found in any other design programs. While many design schools are art and studio driven, our School incorporates a lab-driven culture.”

Wang, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Aided Industrial Design, is an award-winning industrial designer and has been teaching at Georgia Tech for two years. With the exceptional resources available in SID, Wang explains, “students can acquire new skills that will best prepare them for the industrial design needs of the future.”

Two SID Teaching Assistants, Karan Jain and Lisi Zhu, worked with the students from SCUT and provided hands-on guidance. “For most students,” Zhu noted as she helped a student adjust the temperature on the equipment, “this is the first time soldering.” Students were amazed by the resources available to them in the IPDL. Over these three weeks, every student mastered at least one new design method, and most students learned at least two!

Last fall, Shaoping Guan and Bo Ouyang, professors of industrial design at SCUT, reached out to Wang to create a formal exchange program.

They invited Budd and Wang to China, first to teach a full unit for sophomores in Spring 2018, and then to bring a group of Chinese students to Tech for a three-week summer workshop at the Georgia Tech campus.

“The opportunity to work with a group of 60 energetic Chinese ID students and begin to build industry connections in Guangzhou and Shenzhen – the Silicon Valley of China - was an eye-opening experience,” Budd remarks.  “It’s readily apparent why Industrial Design has become a key component of the business strategy for leading Chinese manufacturers who are beginning to reshape the global economy.”

The Results



Xiaolin Huang and Dandan Shen designed a waffle maker with an accurate timer and bright indicator light. The base lights up and moves to indicate when the waffles are ready.  


Timer Bob

Yibo Fu and Ruoyu Wen created a timer that is set by waving instead of touching a button. The timer was designed to look like a face, with eyes that blink and fall asleep as the time counts down. Fu pointed out that the wiring took the most time, but the biggest challenge was coding, which he learned for the first time at SID. 



Yueming Lai and Danping Zhou created a combination egg boiler and kitchen timer. Its glass dome changes color to reflect the temperature of the cooking egg. The work on this project was intensive; Lai and Zhou created four prototypes before they felt satisfied with their final product.



Sherry Zhang and Yingzhen Xiao designed a robot-like food scale that helps control portion size. The user sets the weight using buttons on the robot’s face. If the food added to scale outweighs the set portion, the head spins and the eyes turn red.



Hao Peng and Jiaxian Peng designed a machine that prepares baby formula. Built with pressure sensors and designed to look like a cow, the machine is activated by a pat on its head. It warms the milk and water so that the formula can be prepared automatically.



Fangli Song and Tongtong Chen created an apron combined with a kitchen timer. The apron has soft arms that play music, vibrate, and give the wearer a hug. Song and Chen wanted a product that would “warm your heart,” Chen says, smiling. To make the arms, Chen had to learn how to use a sewing machine for the first time.


For the workshop, the students were required to create an innovative food-related product. The product needed to be both electrical and interactive, with an attractive appearance and marketable character - “interactive product with personality!” student Yibo Fu chimes enthusiastically.

Students were paired into six groups and had 12 workshop days to create their products. By the conclusion of the workshop on August 1, they were expected to have produced four major deliverables:  a Bēhance webpage, a poster, a model, and a working prototype.

The workshop was headquartered in the IPDL, but students were able to use three workspaces: a studio, which was used as a craft workshop; a room with a laser cutter, where they could create their models; and the IPDL, where they created their digital designs and made the electronic components using the soldering machines. Through a grant, students received funding to pay for their materials.

Global Exposure Attracts the Best of The Best

The professors sought students with strong portfolios: good GPAs, solid design experience, and excellent work ethics. “They’re the best of the best!” Wang proclaims excitedly.

The professors chose 12 students: six rising juniors and six rising seniors. Just like in America, Chinese students ordinarily apply for graduate school at the beginning of their senior year, so this exchange program strengthens the portfolios of these students and exposes them to the excellent resources available at SID, bolstering Georgia Tech’s role as an international leader in education.

As Teaching Assistant Lisi Zhu observed, this exchange program offers “a precious opportunity for students to experience the global dynamics of industrial design.”