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My team in the VCU da Vinci program undertook the exciting challenge of designing and engineering mobile jump rope stations for Sports Backers in Richmond, Virginia. With a $500 grant, the goal was to create a theftproof and vandalism-resistant station called “Upswing” that would encourage a safe playing environment for children in the city. Through careful observation, data analysis, and over 100 hours of dedication, our team developed a unique mobile jump rope station and rope handle. Our efforts received recognition from various sources, including Virginia Commonwealth University News, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Channel 6 WTRV, and a supportive tweet from Mayor Levar Stoney. We successfully conducted user tests, refined the design, and presented our final prototype to the client, leading to the production and launch of five Upswing stations throughout Richmond, with hopes of expanding to other major cities in the future.


SportsBackers RVA

Team Members

Aaron Ni’jai

Owen Thompson

Susanna Seabourne

Gary Portillo


Allison Schumacher

Team Lead

Julia Donahoe


  • Executive Report

  • Jump Rope Handle Design and Prototype

  • Vinyl Signage

  • UX Research

  • Product Schematic

  • Brand Elements Research

During our initial meeting with the client and mentor, we gained a thorough understanding of the project requirements and expected outcomes. We established a timeline using a Gantt Chart and encouraged each team member to sketch three structure ideas for the upcoming meeting. To ensure consistency, I created a brand standards document and shared it with the team. After evaluating the sketches, we selected three ideas to develop into prototypes and detailed sketches. I delegated tasks to team members and utilized Design Thinking exercises such as rapid prototyping. We presented our initial ideas to the client, recorded their feedback, and reviewed it with our mentor. 

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Our first user test at the Richmond 10K event involved assessing colors, patterns, and the prototype’s appeal to children. We created a rough prototype, conducted over 100 tests, and discovered the challenge of designing a handle suitable for both individual and two-person jumping. Additionally, we gained valuable insights into color preferences. At Fairfield Elementary School, we conducted a second user test, engaging with over 40 students and collecting data on their jumping behavior.


At Fairfield Elementary School, we conducted a second user test, engaging with over 40 students and collecting data on their jumping behavior.


To determine the appropriate length for jump ropes, we conducted tests involving individuals of different heights. We also explored designs for the jump rope handles. Additionally, we created a Survey Monkey survey to gather data from parents whose children would use our product. I acquired training on the VCU 3D printer, enabling us to print the jump rope handle designs. Simultaneously, I began compiling the body and images for the Executive Report. We sought input from several engineers to review our prototypes and designs. After multiple iterations, we finalized the handle design to ensure the rope would not tangle during individual or two-person jumping. Considering practicality and durability, we determined that 3D printing was the best choice for material, aligning with our $2000 budget.

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