The Gathering Plate makes catered events more enjoyable by allowing attendees to hold their food and drinks in one hand. It is designed to be aesthetically pleasing, made from sustainably-sourced bamboo or wood, and use modular plate configurations to accommodate multiple types of food. It is best suited for large, catered events, such as networking events or cocktail parties.
As part of my Kessler Fellowship this past summer, I chose to continue a project from my sophomore design class. During the summer I picked up on the Party Plate where I had left off, redesigning based on insights from the previous version. I went through two more design iterations, developed a business plan, and rebranded my product from the Party Plate to the Gathering Plate. I fabricated my design iterations using primarily pieces of scrap material and determined how to use minimal pieces to test various features. The various plate versions tested features such as standing height above a table, plate rim height, and preference for textured or smooth surfaces on the plate.
Version 1 - Party Plate (Spring 2015)
MAE 2250 Mechanical Synthesis: Open Design Project, with team members Jonathan Davidson, Miranda Jeffries, and Aaron Zhu
Sophomore Spring
CAD by Jonathan Davidson
As part of the project, we designed and performed various mechanical tests, like the stability test above.
Version 2 - [The Bug]
Kessler Fellowship at Rev Ithaca Startup Works Hardware Accelerator
Created using AutoCAD
I called this version "the bug" because it reminded me of a beetle with large mandibles. The prototype is just the stripped down essentials of the product: a plate holder merged with a cup holder. 
Part of the reason why I chose to do this project was to demonstrate the value of customer research to the teams in the Hardware Accelerator program. The other instructors and I kept urging them to bring their prototypes out in the world to help them make design decisions that they were struggling to make just by guessing what their target markets might need. We kept hearing responses from the team members like, "We just want to have a really polished model with all of the features before we show it to people, so they really know what we're trying to do." Or, "We've already described it to a lot of people and they seem to really like the idea." I wanted to show teams ways to gain insights from their target markets without expending so many resources and so much energy creating perfect models. I wanted to show them how to really ask questions. 
Passing this basic version around my office helped me figure out some of the features I would need to test in the next iteration. My coworkers and hardware accelerator mentees showed me different ways they wanted to grip the plate, different ways they wanted to lift it and put it down, ways they felt uncomfortable with it, and settings in which they wanted to use it.
Version 3 - Gathering Plate
For this version, I focused on testing only a few features, using minimal wood (I was only using scrap laser cutter plywood at the time) and modular parts. The plates tested the following features:
1. Textured or smooth finger rests on the base of the plate
2. Optimal rim thickness
3. Optimal height off the table
I used various pieces of waste material from each plate to form the different attributes of each plate, like the textured (and some smooth) finger rests on the underside of the plate frames above that are simply other parts of the laser cut-outs from each frame.
This plate style seemed to be the preferred version based on user feedback
It was at this time that I decided the plate needed rebranding. I did a name workshop with one of my coworkers to reflect on what the plate really does for users and what I want customers to associate with my products. Through a series of word exercises, I identified that the purpose of the plate is to help people have more enjoyable experiences together. Thus, the plate transitioned from being the Party Plate to being the Gathering Plate, a product of a company I named Agora Crafts, based on the Greek word for public assembly spaces. Below is a Business Model Canvas for the Gathering Plate:
Demo Day attendees really enjoyed using the Gathering Plate. Demo Day, the culminating exposition event for teams in the summer Rev Ithaca Hardware Accelerator, was the perfect setting for the plate: a large, professional, catered event with many attendees, finger food, and drink, but no seating or free table space. I passed out ten Gathering Plate prototypes and received a lot of (mostly positive!) feedback from users. The largest complaint was about the fit of the plate in the plate frame, which is the aspect I would prioritize if I made another iteration.
Photo credits to Michele Williams.
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