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Image of 'Hexplore' - designed by student Helena Cowley

Design student wins competition for sustainable toy design

A student from Loughborough’s Design School has won a prize for the innovative, sustainable child’s toy she has designed.

Photo of Helena with Hexplore toy

Helena with 'Hexplore'

Helena Cowley, a final year student studying BA Industrial Design and Technology, was named one of three Student Design Award winners, following a brief set by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) called ‘Fair Play’.

The competition challenged university students with the task of designing or re-designing a toy and its packaging to combat waste.

Helena created ‘Hexplore’, an outdoor toy which consists of seven biodegradable components, known as ‘hex modules’, that can used in a variety of ways – to stack, to build, or to fill – alongside explorer challenge cards, a spinner and an optional app to download.

The toy has been designed to be played outside and aims to get children interacting with nature through exploration and small world play. It also encourages children to collect sustainable and natural resources to complement their playtime.

Hexplore was designed to be easily transported using rope handles, and the sleeve is made from 100% recycled cardboard, which is repurposed as part of the overall play experience. Children can also fit in their existing toys into the carry case.

The RSA awarded Helena the Placement Award, an eight-week opportunity to work at The Chartered Institute of Marketing in Maidenhead, alongside a £2,500 grant to support her living expenses.

Following her win, Helena said: “I really enjoyed undertaking the RSA Student Design competition brief; it gave me the opportunity to design a product considering both social and environmental benefits.

“My research was thorough and involved visiting the on-campus nurseryand Forest School as well as talking to experts on child development, all of which provided me with valuable insights that highlighted the importance of open-ended and imaginative play, as well as confirming the growing trends in ‘nature play’.”

She continued: “I was thrilled for my idea to have won an RSA Student Design Award and I am very excited for the future opportunities that may follow.  

“To have been awarded the placement award at the Chartered Institute of Marketing is an extra bonus. I’m looking forward to gaining invaluable experience within a sector that as a designer, strongly interests me.”

For more information on the competition, and to see a full list of the winners, visit the RSA Student Design Awards website.  

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