Swinburne News

Prototyping from home: Design Factory Melbourne supports students to create remotely

14 September 2020

This article was originally published in Swinburne University of Technology’s Design News – a platform celebrating design and innovation across Swinburne’s School of Design. Discover the latest design news about Swinburne’s research, teaching and student success stories.

Based at Swinburne, Design Factory Melbourne (DFM) has created ‘ProtoKIT’ to help students build and make prototypes while they study remotely. 

The kits provide students with the materials and tools they need to help them in their prototyping efforts, a core DFM process that is integrated into interdisciplinary units. Prototyping helps students understand why prototyping is so important in helping them to communicate, empathise and bring ideas to life.

Initiated by DFM Academic Director, Dr Christine Thong, she says the kits are an inclusive way to give students from across diverse disciplines such as design, health and business, fundamental resources. 

“We decided to walk the talk and find innovative ways to support physical prototyping when students can’t come to campus. These kits are an inclusive way to give everyone some fundamental resources and tools to explore and develop ideas through making. It’s a new way of supporting the home classroom,” says Dr Thong.


The kits are an inclusive way to give students from across diverse disciplines fundamental resources to create.

During a regular semester, students from DFM would have access to soft-prototyping facilities and on-hand prototyping support, but COVID-19 restrictions have limited students being able to access to these facilities.

 “The prototyping kits provides materials that help students to explore, develop and communicate ideas from their home. Teaching creative problem solving with creative problem solving. We conceived the take-home prototyping kit to keep our students engaged and continue high quality learning and student experience.” 

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The kits were conceived to keep students engaged and to continue a high quality learning and student experience.

Developing the kits

The kits have been developed and produced by DFM’s prototypes coaches Thom Luke and Elliot Henkel – with support from DFM Director Anita Kocsis and the DFM team.

“As designers, having the necessary tools and materials at hand to help facilitate the making process is vital. In a turbulent environment, where access to resources is at times very limited, self-sufficiency is often the key to continued development and ultimately, success with an idea,” says Mr Luke.

“These kits represent an avenue to bridge the gap COVID-19 has cut through our established learning environments. By facilitating the recipients with a range of materials and tools, we allow them to continue to innovate, whilst echoing the environment and ideals we foster in the DFM Firestation.”

Made in Swinburne’s ProtoLAB, the kits will be mailed to students as Stage 4 restrictions continue in Melbourne.

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The kits provide students with the materials and tools they need to help them in their prototyping efforts.

“Our students are a community of people who by experiencing the now – university as we know it – bringing their challenges, insights and creativity from multiple perspectives to work together,” says Dr Kocsis.


“They are empowered to work together across multiple and diverse teams and in practice gain valuable skills through the language of prototyping.


We prototype to “build to think”; to communicate, to empathise and bring an idea into the world. Our Design Factory students bring their experience and talent to their working teams and leverage the skills of prototyping to translate, facilitate and transform ideas. To conceive something is only half the challenge; to demonstrate it no matter how rough or formative is a powerful skill as it offers multiple forms of communication.”

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