2018 IDEA Sandbox Stories - Paul Guardia

By Carson Deveau


To Paul Guardia, applying for the IDEA Sandbox boot camp was a no brainer.           

“You get great hands on experience learning about how to design, and the process that goes into it, get exposed to the way other disciplines think, and you get paid. There wasn’t a reason me for not to do it,” he said.

 Guardia is an interdisciplinary design student at NSCAD University and heard about the boot camp from his professor Glen Hougan, who is one of the instructors at the boot camp.

Guardia originally wanted to apply for the boot camp to work on his design thinking skills, as well as wanted the opportunity to work with students with engineering and business backgrounds.

“Working with other disciplines was probably one of my favourite aspects about the boot camp. Being exposed to their different perspectives and seeing how they looked at a problem compared to me was very interesting.”

 As he continues to work towards getting his interdisciplinary design degree from NSCAD University, Guardia is unsure what the future holds for him once he graduates. Though he has never truly considered a career in it, Guardia said the boot camp exposed him to aspects of being an entrepreneur that he enjoyed, and now he could maybe see himself becoming one later on in life.

“I could see myself becoming an entrepreneur for sure. There is still a lot of knowledge and skills that come with being your own boss that I have to learn, like management, sales, communications, etc., but at least I now know it’s something I like doing.”   

 Paul Guardia, middle, presents his idea for a board game to his instructors and fellow participants of the 2018 IDEA Sandbox boot camp. 

Paul Guardia, middle, presents his idea for a board game to his instructors and fellow participants of the 2018 IDEA Sandbox boot camp. 

2018 IDEA Sandbox Stories - Nour Houdeib

By Carson Deveau


Nour Houdeib never planned on applying for the IDEA Sandbox boot camp, but just kind of stumbled upon it.

Houdeib, a second year engineering student at Dalhousie, had heard about the boot camp from one of her professors Holly Pharoah, one of the instructors of the boot camp, but had never planned on applying for it.          

“I was looking for a job that would last all summer, not just six weeks (which the boot camp runs), so I never really considered it,” she said.

Houdeib did end up getting a job for the summer, as Dalhousie engineering professor Cliff Johnston hired her to do research in his lab. Unfortunately for Houdeib, due to the construction going on around the Dalhousie Sexton campus, the labs weren’t ready to conduct research in time. So Johnston, who is another instructor of the IDEA Sandbox, enrolled her in the six week long boot camp.

As the boot camp enters its’ final week, Houdeib couldn’t thank Johnston enough for enrolling her.

“The (IDEA) Sandbox is such a good learning experience that showed me some perspectives about product design and the ideation process that I wouldn’t have thought of before.”

Throughout her time in the boot camp, Houdeib has worked with other engineering students, as well as students with design and business backgrounds, on a variety of projects. This includes creating and designing her own board game, and her final project, which is to create a more ergonomic diaper bag for parents.

“Working with students from different programs helped me with my decision making skills, as they were able to think about things that I normally wouldn’t be whenever it comes to a product because I’m use to working with other engineers and the ways we think.”

  Because of the boot camp, Houdeib said she has learned how to benchmark more effectively for a new product, how to come up with ideas easier and faster, as well as developed better social skills to be able to actual talk to people to figure out their problems and how to design a better product to help them.

 Looking into the future, Houdeib is unsure what exactly she wants to do once she graduates Dalhousie, but said the IDEA Sandbox boot camp has given her a lot of skills and knowledge to go forward with, including some for her to become an entrepreneur and run her own business.

“I never really thought of it before. But after the boot camp I will have a few entrepreneur skills like knowing the difference between actual value and perceived value, understanding the production process of a new idea, as well as better leadership skills, so who knows.” 

 Nour Houdeib, left, presents her idea for a board game to the IDEA Sandbox instructors and fellow participants. 

Nour Houdeib, left, presents her idea for a board game to the IDEA Sandbox instructors and fellow participants. 

Designing a Rabbit Feeder - 1st Week Project

By Carson Deveau


During the first week of this year’s IDEA Sandbox boot camp, to help the participants get in the headspace of design thinking and product development, instructor Holly Pharaoh tasked the students up with an idea for a new feeding system for her pet rabbit, and then had to build a rough prototype of the design.

The students were placed into small groups of three or four, and were only given the afternoon to come up with their designs and prototypes.

The goal of the assignment was to not produce a feeder that Pharaoh could actually take home and use with her pet rabbit, even though she did take a few home to try out, but was to give an introduction to the type of problems students would be dealing with while in the six week long boot camp. As well, the assignment was the first group exercise that the students had to complete for the boot camp, so it served as a good icebreaker to get to know the other participants. 

 Florent Herbinger (right) presents his idea for a rabbit feeder to his instructor, Holly Pharaoh, to see if her pet rabbit would eat out of it.

Florent Herbinger (right) presents his idea for a rabbit feeder to his instructor, Holly Pharaoh, to see if her pet rabbit would eat out of it.

2018 IDEA Sandbox Stories - Emilio Marcovici

By Carson Deveau


Emilio Marcovici is a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” and has spent time working at a technology start-up company in order to gain knowledge about what it takes to become an entrepreneur.

During his time at the start-up, the third-year commerce student at Dalhousie University realized that he needed more education about the industry if he was going to pursue becoming an entrepreneur in the future.

One of the major things Marcovici realized that he needed was to further develop his product development skills and the process it takes to bring an idea to market.

“Unfortunately, there is not a lot of available courses that offer this type of training,” Marcovici said.

Fortunately for Marcovici, though there was not a course that focused on product development he could take, there was a boot camp he could apply for.                     Marcovici became aware about the IDEA Sandbox boot camp from an email sent from the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie, and decided to apply for it after one of his professors thought it would be good for him.                  

Throughout the six-week long boot camp, Marcovici worked on a number of projects and tasks that has helped him on his way to becoming an entrepreneur. From learning how to manage a team with diverse skill-sets, to learning more about how design factors into a project, to improving his knowledge and skills around product development, Marcovici has gained a lot in six, short, weeks and is thankful his professor encouraged him to apply for the boot camp.

“I consider the IDEA Sandbox (boot camp) to be one of the most useful activities I have taken part in while at Dalhousie. It has exceeded my expectations in every way, and would highly recommend to other students.”

After going through the boot camp, Marcovici has gained skills that will help him as he continues to work to become an entrepreneur, but realizes that this is just the beginning for him.

“I know there are certain things (about becoming an entrepreneur) that I still have to learn, like how the industry works and stuff like that, but the IDEA Sandbox boot camp has definitely got me closer.” 

 Emilio Marcovici (right) presents his group's board game "Ethical Issues" to the rest of the IDEA Sandbox boot camp. 

Emilio Marcovici (right) presents his group's board game "Ethical Issues" to the rest of the IDEA Sandbox boot camp. 

Beginning of Final Projects (2018 IDEA Sandbox)

The fourth week of the IDEA Sandbox boot camp saw the participants broken up into new groups for their final project. For their final projects, each groups is assigned a topic and is tasked with coming up with a new, innovative, way to improve upon products that are related to that topic.

The topics the participants will be working on are garden aids for people with limited strength/mobility, furniture to assist people with special needs, ergonomic furniture for infants, plogging (picking up trash while jogging) and improving barbeque cleaners.

During the beginning of the week, groups worked together to gather research about their topic. This included students reaching out to experts in their topic’s field and talking to people who live with these struggles for advice about what is currently out on the market for people to buy, and what improvements can be made to those products.

After conducting their research, students spent Friday morning building rough prototypes of a few of their ideas they had for their project. After prototyping and bringing their ideas to life all morning, each group presented their prototypes to the instructors to have them decide which idea they should pursue for their final project.  

Next week, the instructors will indicate to each group which prototype they will continue to improve upon, and work with for their final project, which will be presented on June 8th.  

 Brandon Johnson (right) shows his idea for a new, innovative, BBQ cleaner. 

Brandon Johnson (right) shows his idea for a new, innovative, BBQ cleaner. 

2018 IDEA Sandbox Boot Camp - Mad Stax' (Board Game)

By Carson Deveau

Mad Stax’ a board game created by Keegan Campbell, Paul Guardia, and Taylor Roe and is a collaborative building game that requires players to work together in order to make the tallest tower possible. The game requires players to build their tower using unique patterns while under difficult circumstances.

The inspiration behind the idea came after the trio played a variety of games at the Board Room Café a couple of weeks ago.

“After playing a bunch of different styles of games, we knew that we wanted our game to be collaborative, have something to do with building, but most importantly we wanted it to be simple enough so that anyone could play and have fun with it,” said Guardia, a second year design student at NSCAD University.

In the following days, the trio began spit-balling ideas for how to incorporate all of those aspects into their board game. It all came together when Campbell, a graduating mechanical engineer student at Dalhousie, came up with a game called “Flood-Tower” where players had to build unique patterns using Jenga-like pieces. The group used this core concept, combined with a game Guardia thought of where players would be blindfolded while building something, and quickly found themselves with their board game idea. After that, the trio began working on the design of the game, and what theme it should have, which proved to be one of the most difficult parts of the entire process.

“It was probably the toughest part, just because there was so many different directions would could’ve gone in, and it was hard to narrow it down to one,” said Roe, a second year engineering student at Dalhousie.

Eventually, the trio decided to make their game 90’s themed and design the game pieces and box to reflect that.

“Everyone seems to love everything from the 90’s, so we wanted our game to be tied in to that nostalgia because if were ever going to take it to market, we think it would be a good selling point,” said Campbell.

As they finished their board game and gave a final presentation about it to the rest of the IDEA sandbox participants and instructors on Thursday, the trio said the overall process and experience of creating, design and prototyping a new product was a rewarding one for a number of different reasons.

For Guardia, he said that this helped him understand of little better about how to properly appeal to a target audience of a product.

“It was eye-opening to realize that the target audience you think you’re building your product for is not actually the audience that will be buying it, like this board game for example; It’s a children’s game so I assumed I would be trying to appeal to young kids, but actually it’s the parents of those young kids who I need to be trying to connect with because they are the ones actually buying the game.”

For Roe, she said the project made her realize that you can’t overlook the small parts that help contribute to the overall project.

“Our biggest struggle came with our instructions, and the terminology we used to. A lot of people whenever they tested our game at first had a hard time understanding how to play, and because of this didn’t have fun playing. Having something that small, but still impacts the overall product that dramatically is something I didn’t think of.”

And for Campbell, he said this project made him realize how crucial effective communication is between group members whenever you are all working towards a common goal.

“If you can’t get on the same page and figure out what we are working towards, the it just isn’t going to work.” 

 From left to right: Keegan Campbell, Taylor Roe, & Paul Guardia

From left to right: Keegan Campbell, Taylor Roe, & Paul Guardia

2018 IDEA Sandbox Boot Camp - GEMS (Board Game)

By Carson Deveau

GEMS is a 3D strategic puzzle game created by Florent Herbinger, Arjun Lal, and Jack Mahody and in which players compete against each other to complete patterns and collect points.

The original idea the trio had for their board game was much different from this concept though. In the beginning, the group had a similar style 3D game that required players to build patterns and collect points, but was also a one versus all, collaborative, game that required all of the players to work together in order to beat a common evil and reach a common goal.

“Though the concept of this game was very interesting to us, it was really overwhelming to try an create and explain to anyone who wasn’t us. People playing found it confusing, and didn’t understand the objective of the game, so we had to pivot our idea quickly, said Herbinger, a graduating engineer student at Dalhousie.

 The group went back to the drawing board to try and come up with a new way that they could retool their previous game. It wasn’t until Lal suggested that instead of having the players remove the tiles on the game board that they should be using the tiles to build patterns on the board. After that, the rest of the game came together very quickly, and soon enough the group had a game that was fun and easy to learn.

Because Lal’s suggestion made GEMS simpler than the previous version, the game could be played more quickly and players would typically only need 20-40 minutes to complete one game, which Herbinger wanted.

“The common time for tile games is about 30 minutes or so, so we decided we wanted our game to follow those guidelines as well.”

Now that their board game is handed in, the group reflected on their two-week experience as helpful, and a good building block to help them with the rest of the IDEA Sandbox boot camp. Mahody, a first year commerce student at Dalhousie, said the project made him better understand product design, which was an area he wasn’t that expose to before entering the boot camp.

“It just made me realize that there is so much stuff that you have to take into account whenever you are trying to bring a product to market that you can’t get too attached to anything and have to be always prepared to scrap it and do something else.”

The experience was slightly different for Herbinger though, as he is a board game enthusiast and even founded a society dedicated to board games at Dalhousie a few years ago.

 “I was a little nervous at the beginning about if my idea was too ambitious and unachievable, but honestly the entire experience was great. Having only a limited time to get everything done made us focus on the important aspects of the game, and not the minor things that don’t matter that much in reality that I probably would’ve been worrying about.” 

 From left to right: Jack Mahody, Florent Herbinger, & Arjun Lal

From left to right: Jack Mahody, Florent Herbinger, & Arjun Lal

2018 IDEA Sandbox Boot Camp - Prison Break-Out (Board Game)

By Carson Deveau

Prison Break-Out is a modern day cop-and-robbers game created by Sidney Klien, Nour Houdeib, and Xiaoyia ‘Patrice’ Dong that allows players to play as either an inmate or a security guard at a prison during a prison riot, with the goal to either escape or to stop them from escaping.

The idea of the game came together when the group began discussing their ideas for the project, which all so happened to be about escaping somewhere. They combined their thoughts and decided that this was the board game they wanted to pursue. The biggest decision the group made was their choice to make the board for the game out of actual gears that could be moved throughout the game depending on what the players decide to do while playing.

“We wanted to add the gears and make them move because it made the game different every time you would play it, and it gave the players more strategic options,” said Houdeib, a second year engineering student at Dalhousie.

Once they had the concept of the game and the layout done, all that was left to do was to design it so that game had a prison-feel to it, and to finalize it through making numerous different prototypes.

Reflecting back on the process, the trio said the project was a useful tool that will help prepare them for what it’s going to be like working on product design in the real world. Klien, a third year business student at Dalhousie, said that being exposed to people from other professions a great experience.

“It was nice having people with different perspectives to work with because I was able to see how they worked, and what they were good at, and how I could help them to achieve the overall goal. This literally was the reason I signed up for the IDEA Sandbox boot camp, to learn these types of skills.”

Dong, a third year design student at NSCAD University, agreed and said working with others that had different educational backgrounds than her was eye opening for her.

“Because I’m a design student, I almost always just work with other designers. Due to this we have a lot of arguments about creative differences and that can sometimes hinder an idea I have. But working with others allowed me to have creative freedom, which I enjoyed.”  

 From left to right: Nour Houdeib, Xiaoyia 'Patrice' Dong and Sidney Klien

From left to right: Nour Houdeib, Xiaoyia 'Patrice' Dong and Sidney Klien