Designing Toys for Refugees No Child’s Play

November 28, 2011 - News Release

Some 370 University of Guelph engineering students are using design ideas to make toys for refugee children around the world. The students will show more than 60 new toys in the new Thornbrough Building atrium late this month and will talk about their projects made for a first-year engineering design course on campus.

Taught by engineering professors Khosrow Farahbakhsh and David Lubitz, the course includes a design project. Last year, students made games to help teach math and science.

This year, said Farahbakhsh, “we decided on toys for children in refugee camps as something that could make a positive impact in the world. Our students were asked to consider what the world would be like if we designed for the 90 per cent of the population that is not affluent.”

Groups of six Guelph students designed and built educational toys for children living in a refugee camp. Each group chose one camp from about 700 around the globe listed on the Internet.

They developed ideas and designs based on safety, functionality, materials and cost (no more than $50 to make the toy).

After reviewing foam prototypes, the students made toys that were shown to visiting high school students and families during Science and Engineering Day held on campus earlier this month.

“Most people, at some point, think about how cool it would be if a toy did this or that," said Farahbakhsh. "This project offers the students an opportunity to think about designing a cool toy, but not for themselves this time. In our field, it is important to be able to understand and design for the needs of others. It is quite demanding to understand the needs of people living in completely different circumstances and lacking our resources.”

The toys will be judged by two panels of non-engineers, one a group of students. The other panel will comprise U of G president Alastair Summerlee; a member of the Right to Play organization; a representative from Novus Environmental, a Guelph-based company in atmospheric sciences, acoustics and human health; and possibly an epidemiologist.

The toys for refugee children will be on display Nov. 30 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., along with promotional materials, assembly instructions and user manuals.

Khosrow Farahbakhsh, PhD., P.Eng.
Associate Professor
School of Engineering
University of Guelph
519-824-4120, Ext. 53832

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982, or

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