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DE Cubicle Toy Design Contest: We Have a Winner!

Mark Norwood's water-spraying sherman tank, rendered using SolidWorks PhotoView 360, part of SolidWorks Premium.

Mark Nowrood's water-spraying Sherman tank, winner of DE's inaugural cubicle toy design contest.

Earlier this week, we — the three judges — agonized over our upcoming decisions to pick one from the three worthy ideas we had before us:

  • Jason Cox’s remote-controlled mouse, detailed in Google SketchUp;
  • Ray Kelley’s bottle cap blaster, designed in SolidWorks; and
  • Mark Norwood’s water-spraying tank, designed in SolidWorks.

All three exhibited inventiveness and playfulness. Perhaps more important, each incorporated a unique approach to “recycling.” Jason’s design would give new life to old, discarded PC mice. Ray’s design would encourage coworkers to collect and redeploy their otherwise useless bottle caps. Norwood’s design could easily be realized by modifying a generic toy tank, available at your nearest Radio Shack or ToysRUs.

Despite this being his initiation into 3D modeling, Jason managed to convey his idea in solid form, along with exploded views showing how internal subcomponents would fit together. Ray’s detailed SolidWorks assembly gave you a clear idea how the internal mechanism would work. Norwood’s renderings and transparent views show how he planned to fit the water-carrying tube inside the tank’s shell.

The grand prize: a Dell Precision workstation with AMD FirePro Graphics.

In the end, the sheer amount of CAD and visualization efforts that went into the project, along with a fully assembled physical prototype, tipped the scale in Mark Norwood’s favor. So with pleasure and delight, we introduce you to the winner of our inaugural DE cubicle toy design contest: Mark Norwood and his water-spraying Sherman tank grabbed the prize.

Honorary judge Josh Mings observed, “I’m torn between the tank and the bottle cap shooter, but I’m going to have to go with the tank. There’s a lot of thought put into it, more detail on the model side, and I think from a manufacturer and consumer point of view, it has more potential.”

Honorary judge Tony Lockwood said, “Each gentlemen is a winner in my book. All have proven themselves disruptive technologists, impish pranksters, and ingenious beyond compute. And, of course, all meet and exceed the Robbins Razz requirement for tormenting your cube mates [a test inspired by the way executive editor Steve Robbins make a beloved canine companion chase a laser pointer’s light]. In the end, however, the polling station must close, and I can choose but one. So, with my hat off and a deep bow to the other finalists, I check Mark Norwood’s name on my ballot. When I tally up his doggedness in making an 8-year-old workstation execute his CAD models, his snagging a demo version of SolidWorks Premium 2012, his learning PhotoView 360 to do renderings, buying and adapting components to fit his design, his wife’s complaints that he’s too obsessed with his water-squirting Sherman Tank project, and his bringing wondrous new meaning to a toy from the Land of Abandoned Toys garners I get a number too big to ignore.”

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.


  1. Thanks to DE’s Kenneth Wong and Tony Lockwood, and SolidSmack’s Josh Mings for recognizing my efforts. Thanks to all my all my friends, colleagues, fellow designers and others who “liked” my design. To my friends & colleagues, thank you for being there for me. Most of all, I want to thank my wife. Sherry put up with many nights where I was unavailable, nose in the computer, and distracted. Sherry is the best, her support and encouragement are the key to my happiness and success.

  2. Calling all CAD designers (especially SolidWorks users,)

    When you look at the treads of the tank model, you can see that although they look good from visual perspective, they do not have the holes for the drive wheel and indents for the individual plates. The treads are missing the guide fin that would hold them on the wheels. Can you think of a better way to create the tank treads? I struggled with the tank treads and settled for what you see. In real life the treads would be molded flat, and joined to make the loop. Flat, it would be easy to make the tread detail, but how do you place the flat treads around the wheels and idlers? I am sure that this must have come up in other designs. (I’m thinking bike chains, timing chains, conveyor belts and other segmented flexible devices) Maybe I have missed a great tool in my CAD software, but I haven’t found it. Anyone out there have any suggestions? As with all things there may be several ways to do this. Thanks for your help.

  3. Congratulations on winning the contest, Mark. The pictures of your model looks great and I can really appreciate the large time commitment it took. Enjoy your new CAD machine and I’ll look forward to competing against you next time. Until then, watch out for high velocity bottle caps aimed at tanks. 🙂

  4. Mark,
    Did you try making a single tread segment then constraining the center of the front and rear centers where the connecting bolt passes through to follow a center line path of the loop of the tread? Then repeating the tread segments along that path?

  5. Ray,

    Thanks! I’m drooling over the computer and I can’t wait to drive it.

    I look froward to the next contest as well, in the meantime I’ll keep my eye out for whizzing bottle caps!

  6. Steve,

    I created a single plate and I could easily place them on the perimeter of the wheels. I had trouble getting the plate to follow a path without creating several arrays. It was also difficult to space them correctly. I was hoping there was an add-on or built in method that would save some of the work.

  7. OK, I am surprised no one knew about the “Belt/Chain” command, (of course I thought I was well versed in SolidWorks and I had never found this little gem.) I am still working this out, and when I get a chance I’ll send a link to the results, and I’ll let you know if it worked.

  8. I want to rephrase my last statement. I meant that no one suggested Belt/Chain command to create the path of the track. I also used the “Curve Driven Pattern” command to place the links along the curve after converting the curve to a spline. It looks really good.

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