Prototyping a biker's food container


PenneToGo is a seal tight food container that helps student bikers carry their meals across campus.

This prototype was designed in ENGS 12, Dartmouth's Design Thinking course. Our team was given the prompt to “help students carry stuff better”. After 10 days, we gave a multi-media presentation and received feedback from our peers and our professor, Eugene Korsunskiy, who used to teach at the Stanford

Project details

Team: 3 teammates from Dartmouth's Design Thinking course
Time: 2018 Spring, 10 days
Tools: Adobe Illustrator, wood laser cutter

My contributions

1. Conducting 6 user interviews
2. Creating wooden prototype
3. Gathering user feedback
4. Crafting presentation film

User Research and Synthesis

Noticing a biker's pain point

Dartmouth students navigate multiple different environments and activities every day. They need to carry many things with them, but at times the current systems for carrying things can be bulky, awkward, and even unhealthy.

After observational research and interviews, my team noticed that food is an important yet often neglected part of student life. In a campus like Dartmouth, busy student bikers have an especially hard time. This video highlights how biking with pasta can go awry.

Biking with pasta in hand is...




Brainstorming and Ideation

Finding ways to help

Sticky notes and sharpies in hand, we brainstormed possible solutions. The biggest hindrance was that food containers are almost always orientation sensitive. Unless students are a pro at biking with one hand, or don't mind pasta stains in their backpack, biking with food is simply unwieldy.


Bias toward action

Then I thought, what if we made something like a horizontal Nalgene bottle? A Nalgene bottle is water proof. It is big enough to hold a decent meal but skinny enough to fit into the side of a backpack. It has a rather ergonomic grip.

My teammates and I discussed this idea to no avail. Finally, I grabbed some foam board and created a prototype, and all debates were settled. I learned from that experience the criticality of biasing toward action, a design thinking mindset that promotes action over discussion-based work.

User Feedback

Gathering ideas for further improvement

Using Adobe Illustrator and a laser cutter, Michael and I created a wooden prototype to represent our final product idea: a seal tight food container made of microwavable, dishwasher friendly plastic that latches strongly onto a handlebar bike mount. We used this prototype to gather user feedback.

Check out how the product works alongside user feedback!


  • During user research, lean into niche user groups.
    New product ideas are often inspired from people with specific, unexpected problems. Designing for the student biker allowed us to create a product that would benefit the average student as well.
  • Work in the concrete.
    Instead of discussing hypothetical ideas, bias toward action and make actual prototypes. It is surprising how many debates are settled once a concrete prototype is made.
  • When stuck, ask mentors for help.
    Given our limited knowledge of product engineering, my team didn’t know how to make a 3D prototype and tried to learn Solid Works. We were roadblocked until we asked Professor Eugene for help, and he taught us how to use Adobe Illustrator for laser cutting.

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