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Student Stirs Up Excitement With a Spoon Designed to Heat Beverages

Professionals from more than 30 countries will get the chance to examine an inventive design by UC student Geoff Baldwin March 12-14. That’s when Baldwin travels to Chicago to  display the design that just won him a second place in the International Housewares Association competition.

Date: 3/15/2006
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley and submitted by Geoff Baldwin
UC ingot For University of Cincinnati industrial design senior Geoff Baldwin, the sweet smell of success comes with the aroma of hot coffee and tea.

That’s because Baldwin, 24, of Ft. Mitchell, Ky., just won a second place in an international student competition for his conceptual design of a shallow spoon that contains an internal mixture of calcium oxide and water. When the two elements mix, they give off a burst of heat.

Baldwin designed his flat spoon as a product that coffee and tea drinkers could use to reheat their beverages once those drinks have gone cold. And his hot design idea has just won him a top prize in an annual student design competition sponsored by the International Housewares Association (IHA). He’s not only won $1,700 in prize money but also a trip to Chicago during IHA’s international show there from March 12-14. Baldwin’s work will be on exhibit during the home and housewear exposition.

“The irony,” stated Baldwin, “Is that I don’t drink either tea or coffee.”

The seed of his design idea came to him while he was on co-op with Red Studio in New York City. (Co-op stands for cooperative education, and it’s the practice wherein students alternate quarters spent in the classroom with quarters of paid, professional work directly related to their major. UC is the global birthplace of co-op, having founded the practice in 1906.)

“Studio Red is an innovation studio, and I was actually working on the job generating ideas for Coca-Cola last fall,” recalled Baldwin, a student in UC’s top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.

"Just from that, I began to think of hot beverages too, and I knew this competition was coming up. So after work, I’d research and doodle on ideas for hot drinks. I thought of things like a ‘hot cube’ as the opposite of an ice cube. Then, I thought of a throw-away stir stick that would contain a dose of water and calcium oxide to re-heat a beverage. Finally, I landed on the spoon idea.”

Baldwin admitted that, as it stands now, the spoon idea could go several different ways. The idea he finally submitted to IHA is a spoon that functions something like a tie-clip. Once users activate the mixing of water and calcium oxide within the spoon by pressing the handle end of the spoon, they then clip the spoon to the cup. “That way, the spoon doesn’t get in the way while you’re drinking. And it doesn’t fall out or slip sideways in the cup,” he explained.

As designed, the spoons would be disposable after one use – each spoon with an  individual dose of water and calcium oxide. Or, Baldwin’s even thought that a more ornate, reusable spoon could be developed. However, that would require the user to slip a pellet of calcium oxide inside the spoon along with a little water in order to generate heat for each desired use. “That’s a little bit more troublesome for the consumer,” Baldwin admitted.

As envisioned by Baldwin, each disposable spoon would generate between 90 to 100 degrees of heat, enough to heat an average cup of coffee or tea for several minutes.

In researching and formulating his design concept, Baldwin was influenced not only by his co-op at Red Studio but also by former co-ops at Design Continuum in Boston and at  Nike in Portland as well as co-ops at other firms. “Design Continuum really emphasizes careful observation of what people do, how they use products…not what they say they do. I did that with coffee and tea drinkers. I’d even go to coffee houses and watch people and then go up and ask them questions too,” he laughed.

Best of all, he said, was how his co-op colleagues would encourage him. “They knew I was working on the project after hours, and they’d say, ‘Hurry up and finish it. I need a product like that,’” recollected Baldwin.

And after all his effort, Baldwin almost didn’t get his entry to IHA in time. It was due on Dec. 27, 2005, and he’d finished it right before Christmas day, planning to express mail it the day after Christmas. But, he hadn’t counted on Christmas falling on a Sunday last year. Baldwin said, “Everything was closed the day after Christmas, even Federal Express. My Mom knew it was important to me and offered to drive me to Chicago to get it there on time.”

But in the end, he just decided to mail it on Dec. 27. And that’s one reason Baldwin was so surprised to receive the call from an IHA representative that he’d won. “All I  managed to say at first was: ‘I can’t believe it made it on time.’”

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