Students lose their marbles designing fun and games

Newton's Marbles game

Newton’s Marbles, a game designed by UIC students Ricardo Salazar and Christian Cappet, will be manufactured and distributed in Marbles: the Brain Store.


Childhood memories came into play when juniors in the School of Design created games for Marbles: the Brain Store.

Industrial design students, led by faculty members T.J. O’Keefe and Jay Sae Jung Oh, spent half the semester researching, conceptualizing and building games. Students presented their models to the specialty store April 29.

Marbles selected the game Newton’s Marbles to manufacture and distribute in their stores. Winning team members Ricardo Salazar and Christian Cappet each received an iPad mini and will have their names credited on the product.

“Having a real product in the market is pretty incredible for a student,” O’Keefe said. “They got to experience what it’s like to work with a client in a professional setting, and it was great for them to experience real-world constraints, like budget and marketing.”

Similar to Connect Four and Pentago, Newton’s Marbles uses gravity, a rotating wooden board and glass marbles. Marbles roll into place after being put on vertical or horizontal grooves. Players need to get five marbles in a row to win – while keeping in mind that their opponent can twist the lower-right side of the game board or pull a bar that releases marbles from a different quadrant.

Salazar, the game’s designer, said he was inspired to create Newton’s Marbles after playing Connect Four with his son.

“I bought him the game, played it with him and thought it was way too easy,” Salazar said. “I thought about making a similar game but something a little more strategic, a little more difficult.”

He also wanted to make a game his client would like. “I really tried to hone in on what the company and their philosophy is about,” he said.

Salazar and Cappet’s design is expected to be in stores as soon as next year.

“That’s the most exciting thing for me,” Salazar said. “To have a design in a store with my name on it as a freshly graduated student is going to be huge for my portfolio.”

Gemini game

Felipe Angel Oropeza and YuWei Chiang designed Gemini, similar to Chinese checkers.

The winners had some stiff competition.

Among the competing teams were Felipe Angel Oropeza and YuWei Chiang, who designed Gemini, a modified version of Chinese checkers.

“We really wanted to focus on two-player strategy games and basic concepts, like Connect Four or advancing your pieces,” Oropeza said.

Formatted as a circular rotating board, Gemini offers two games in one. Objectives include getting marbles into rows within designated zones by rotating the rings.

“We wanted it to be hard to master and be very good at,” Chiang said.

Oropeza and Chiang wanted the game to have a decorative element, too. “Something that you could put on the coffee table and impress friends with, instead of putting in a box and back into the closet,” Oropeza said.

For Sticky Me, teams of players wear vests and tag each another with fuzzy balls.

Partners had to consider safety hazards, said Hamsel De La Cruz. “Our first prototype had the Velcro placed on elbows, knees, head and feet,” he said. “And upon further consideration, it was revealed that those areas might be problematic.”

Unbalanced game

Players build towers in Nick Savidge and Nick Greenen’s Unbalanced game.

Unbalanced is like Jenga, but with style. Similar to the tower-building game, Nick Savidge and Nick Greenen’s game has players build towers, but with black blocks that have inserted metal rods for balance.

“The first toys that you get are Legos or your basic geometries, like square pegs and square holes, or round pegs and round holes,” Savidge said. “Those toys, shapes, are very nostalgic.”

“It’s just an awesome experience to have Marbles give us this opportunity to potentially have a product that they put in the market with our names,” Greenen said. “I think it’s a unique experience and we’re grateful.”

– Francisca Corona contributed to this story.


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