The students in the industrial design program on campus have the opportunity to produce products in an effort to learn more about their chosen field. One course that aids in this hands-on learning is Industrial Design 2: Ergonomics. This class studies human factors and later applies them to design products that are comfortable, safe and easy to use. “The studio focuses on the human touch, contour and contact aspect of designing products. How we hold, lift, move, use and articulate products,” explained Dave Richter-O’Connell, an assistant professor in industrial design. At the beginning of the school year, Richter-O’Connell’s class’s first project was based on the mechanics of the human hand. “It explores classic precision and power grip types,” said Richter-O’Connell. This was called the Grip Project. Now, they’re focusing on their second project, the Paddle Project.


We just kicked off our second project down at the University Recreation (UREC) Outdoor Adventure Area, as students are designing a new canoe, kayak or stand up paddle (SUP) board,” said Richter-O’Connell.

Houston Taylor, director of the Outdoor Recreational Department, gave a tutorial to the students about the design and operation of paddles used in canoes, kayaks and SUP boards. “He walked through paddling techniques, body dynamics, stress, friction and strain ‘pain points,’ materials construction, and many more,” Richter-O’Connell said. Later that day, Taylor revealed to the ergonomics class and Richter-O’Connell that the canoe that was used for demonstration was a donation in memory of Professor Noah Norton.


An added synchronicity of the canoe was that Noah had taught this ergonomics studio for many years at University of WisconsinStout,” said Richter-O’Connell. Noah Norton was a former industrial design professor and UWStout alumni, as well as an avid canoer. He recently passed away this past spring. The donated canoe was a special tribute to Norton, and visiting it was a great way to kick-off the interior design project.


After the kick-off event, students chose between the three watercraft options (canoe, kayak and SUP board) and began designing. The class had the opportunity to work with Bending Branches, a local paddle manufacturer in Osceola, WI, to understand the materials and manufacturing issues with developing concepts. “Students began to design an innovative new human-powered propulsion device exploring what they are learning about ergonomics, the human body and efficient power delivery in water,” said Richter-O’Connell.

The “Paddle Project” really kicked high into gear in this year’s class. The project is still in-progress, and there’s one more project to go from there. “The final project of the semester adds a specific spatial component like a kitchen food prep center of the kitchen of a teardrop camping trailer,” concluded Richter-O’Connell. It is classes like Industrial Design Ergonomics that prepare industrial design students for their future careers through the hands-on projects featured throughout the course.