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Sign of the Times: The Degenderator

The Degenderator is a zero-profit crowdfunded campaign to distribute as many all-gender bathrooms signs as possible, using a cute animated figure to bring attention to the issue and the campaign. Everyone benefits from well-designed, inclusive bathroom facilities, and a lot of places in the US now require all-gender signage on any single user bathroom. Multi-user all-gender spaces are becoming more common too.

 

 

The team behind the Degenderator, is one person. Robb Godshaw has a background in industrial design, mechatronic engineering, and sculpture. The Degenderator makes use of all of these fields.

 

As an industrial designer, Robb had to balance maintaining the classic look and proportion of the bathroom gender icons with the mechanical constraints of the system. This proved quite the challenge and took dozens of revisions. Having the flexibility to move between parametric modeling and direct modelling was key to tuning the design so that it could function mechanically and maintain the look of the icons it seeks to challenge. This was a task that Fusion 360 handled quite well. Integration of the ability to easily animate mechanical designs and simulate the center of gravity were also key features for this project. Prototypes were made with laser cutting, 3D Printing, Custom PCB Fabrication, and some manual machining. Final products will be injection molded in China, based on exported STEP files and 2D drawings made in Fusion 360.

 

As a mechatronic engineer, Robb’s challenge was to build a low cost system that would run for many years on regular batteries. The solution was found in the low-power magnetic pendulum toys, such as the maneki-neko waving cat, or the flip flap flower. These devices use the natural property of pendulums paired with low-friction linkages and electromagnetism to function. Robb bought more than 30 different toys to determine which mechanisms could be adapted to The Degenderator’s unique needs. In the end the a flip-flaping flower and a panda on a skateboard held the magic ideas that brought the prototypes to a point of production readiness.

 

Electronically, the secret is a tiny, low power, analog circuit which repels the magnetic pendulum in perfect timing with its natural period. The pendulum has a magnet that swings back and forth across a coil of copper wire, thinner than a human hair and about 1 kilometer long. The coil acts as an electromagnet and sensor. It senses the pendulum as it passes, and the chip triggers the repulsion, keeping the bob in motion. The pushes are slight, but they are enough to keep it going forever. The whole thing uses less than 50 microAmps, which is about on par with a long-life smoke detector.

 

 

The Degenderator has just launched on Kickstarter as a zero-profit campaign. Half the signs produced are being donated, while the other half are being sold. If your business has bathrooms suitable for de-gendering, please consider backing this project.

 

At Autodesk, we’re building a diverse workplace and an inclusive culture to give more people the chance to imagine, design, and make a better world. We’re proud to be an equal opportunity employer and consider all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national origin, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected characteristic. We support and celebrate the same degree of diversity among our customers.

 

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