For adroit learners, the Sustainable Product Design and Innovation (SPDI)  major was a great choice for two students.

Junior Madison Boerner is working on a project that could help those with visual or auditory disabilities.

Photo contributed by Will Wrobel

Photo contributed by Will Wrobel

Through the use of biomimicry, she hopes to make it easier to help the lives of blind or hearing impaired people by helping them adapt from things used within nature.

Her project, which is still in the research phase, could adapt concepts such as echolocation used by bats to help human beings adapt to their surroundings.

The major is extremely hands-on, focusing on manufacturing products to make people’s lives easier.

From ergonomic whisks that make it harder for food to spill while mixing, to 3D-printed leather lids and phone cases, products designed by students could be of use to anybody, whether the consequence be of ease or necessity.

Brandt Adley, also a junior, is currently working on a walking stick for hiking that serves many different utilities. Among the original purpose, the walking stick may also serve as a chair and/or a one person tent in dire emergencies. His was inspired through his love of hiking when he was trying to find a way to improve hiking safety. The project, which is in the prototype phase, has its fair share of problems however.

“It’s a great idea, but probably the biggest problem I’m having right now is that it’s too bulky and very top-heavy,” Adley said.

He continued by saying he might need to switch building materials of the stick to something like carbon fiber.

Adley, who is also the president of the outdoors club, thinks that, if he can perfect the design, it could help hikers in certain situations.

The hands-on work of the SPDI program is what brought both of these students to the major.

Adley, who transferred from UMass Dartmouth, used to be a Civil Engineer before he came to Keene. His main criticism was that it was all learning by the book, with no physical work.

He also claims his time at a technical high school helped him form a basis which led him to join the program.

In high school, he spent every other week working in engineering shops which is something he came to enjoy. The same goes for Boerner, who came to Keene originally as a Political Science major but chose SPDI because of her wide array of interests.

“I chose SPDI because I like to do hands on work, and I also have many different interests. In SPDI one day I can make an ergonomic whisk, then my next project involves biomimicry, so I don’t really get bored,” she said.

A project in SPDI typically follows three different stages. Firstly, the student engage in extensive research of what they want to make.

Then, during the prototype phase, they began to lay out their design.

Lastly, and probably the most important stage is actual manufacturing of the project in their shop where they have the proper tools including 3D printers to bring their ideas to life.

They have many resources in the shop,with equipment that can work with anything such as leather, metal and wood.

Manufacturing is a huge focus in Keene’s SPDI program, so it comes as no surprise that this is the most important phase.

Upon reaching out to Professor Lisa Hix, she did not respond to emails about the program, so a professor opinion was not heard.

Lyle Bellamy can be contacted at

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