Ambessa Play is a social enterprise that builds educational STEM kits to spark creativity and imagination for children everywhere. Ambessa means ‘lion’ in Eritrean and Ethiopian languages and you would say ‘Ambessa!’ to a child as congratulations or well done. It can mean brave, strong, or powerful.
With Ambessa Play’s one-to-one business model, for every kit purchased a displaced child receives one for free.
Pentagram partnered with Ambessa to develop the industrial design of their first kit, a DIY Flashlight. The design is battery-free and uses a dynamo to charge a capacitor which powers the LED lamp for around 15 minutes. The Capacitor powers the flashlight for around 15 minutes after 1-2 minutes of winding. Using a capacitor rather than a battery allowed the design to be compact and avoids safety issues associated with batteries.
The clip-on handle allows fast winding to charge the capacitor initially, it can then be kept topped up just by twisting the front dial. With 10 separate components and 16 build steps, the kit turns learning about kinetic energy and electronic components into a hands-on adventure.
Working closely with Ambessa Play founder Sara Berkai the design team’s aim was to create a distinctive, fun and attractive design that would work equally well as a STEM kit and as a usable product. Close attention was paid to pleasing tactile details that make the design memorable such as the bespoke cable connectors and the extra handle for fast winding.
By partnering with charities such as Refugee Council, Care for Calais, Project Play and Terre des Hommes it was possible to involve children at every stage of the process ensuring the designs were optimised for displaced children to provide a meaningful benefit for Ambessa Play’s one-to-one business model. The design team had the opportunity to visit a refugee camp in Calais and also have regular meetings with children through the Refugee Council to test many early design options using functional 3D prototypes.
After reviewing multiple designs of all shapes and sizes, children preferred the flat rectangular format because they liked that it fits into a pocket. They noticed that this form allowed the flashlight to function as a handheld torch, be worn around the neck with a lanyard facing forward and also placed upright on a surface as a lantern for reading.
The packaging was developed to be an integral part of the product experience and support the build of the kit, providing instructions and component organisation, whilst keeping sizing and material use to a minimum.
DIY Flashlight has been launched on Kickstarter.