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Virginia Tech Industrial Design Studentís Award-Winning Toy Receives Design Patent

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blacksburg, VA -- A palm-sized modular toy created by Kelly Harrigan of Manassas, Va., a fourth-year industrial design student in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, has been awarded a design patent, announced Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc.

The toy, named Ferra, won first place last year from Swiss Toymaker Naef Speilzueg. Naef asked for game or design objects appropriate for ages 3 to 99, made primarily of wood. There were 107 entries in the company's inaugural toy competition.

Harrigan layered the wooden shapes of her toy with magnets "because people are fascinated by them at any age," she said. "I wanted to design a toy that makes you want to experiment and learn about the capabilities of magnetism." The name, Ferra, came from the type of magnet she used -- a ceramic magnet called ferrite."

She also wanted to create something modular, she said. "The curvy modular design allows for smooth movement between pieces and the opportunity to create several configurations," said Harrigan. "And it feels good in your palm."

It can also be produced with little material waste when laser cut.

Ferra began as an industrial design program class assignment to develop a creative product capable of commercialization. "The pursuit of intellectual property has been one important layer to our curriculum," said Mitzi Vernon, associate professor of industrial design. The program pushes students to look past the design phase of their projects. "We try to encourage the continuation of the work through working prototypes and competitions, which can accelerate patents, commercialization, and licensing," said Vernon.

The toy is available to be licensed for development, said Jackie Reed, licensing associate with VTIP. Contact Reed via e-mail at or call (540) 443-9217.

Formed in 1985 as an affiliated corporation of Virginia Tech, VTIP is passionate in its pursuit of excellence in technology commercialization, creating market opportunities from scientific innovation. VTIP facilitates the licensing of technology to companies, encourages new faculty startup ventures, works with publishers and distributors of software, and supports the transfer of research and knowledge to other universities, research institutes and companies.

The College of Architecture and Urban Studies is one of the largest of its type in the nation. The college is composed of four schools: the School of Architecture + Design, with programs in architecture, industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture; the School of Public and International Affairs, with programs in urban affairs and planning, public administration and policy, and government and international affairs; the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, a joint school of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the College of Engineering, with programs in building construction and construction management; and the School of Visual Arts, with programs in art history, visual communication design, and studio art. The college enrolls nearly 2,000 students offering 24 degrees taught by 153 faculty members.

This news release was prepared by VTIP student intern Emily Canis of Great Falls, Va., a communication major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech.

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