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SDSU’s Rich Normality Design Collaborative to celebrate patent

As a part of a multi-program collaboration, South Dakota State University’s Rich Normality Design Collaborative (RNDC) initiative will celebrate the recent issue of a patent with a patent signing event on April 19th at 11 a.m. in the Harding Hall Atrium. The event is open to the public.

The Rich Normality Design Collaborative at South Dakota State University: Our Story

More than ten years ago, School of Education, Counseling, and Human Development Professor Kay Cutler and Chris Hume, Founder of KODO Kids, a firm specializing in products for early childhood centers, preschools and daycare centers, met at a conference. The two quickly found a common interest in encouraging children’s creativity and the role of a lab school and ways in which it might connect to business. The following summer, Cutler’s materials and methods students worked on an exploratory project with a KODO Kids product.


The collaboration continued to develop after a former SDSU Interior Design faculty Angela McKillip approached Cutler looking for an authentic, industry-connected design experience for her students. This unexpected cross-disciplinary connection in education and interior design let the two to organize their first collaborative curricular project. In this first iteration, a group of interior design students developed innovative chairs and stools for KODO Kids in conjunction with mentor teachers from the SDSU lab school.


The idea of collaborating across campus led another interdisciplinary team of four SDSU faculty members to participate in “Pathways to Innovation,” an entrepreneurship and innovation program hosted by Stanford University’s Technology Ventures Program. During that experience, the SDSU Pathways team worked to identify key contacts and potential innovation champions already in place on campus and in the larger ecosystem. This scan lead the team, which included the Ness School’s Barb Heller and Craig Silvernagel and the Mechanical Engineering Department’s Todd Letcher, to Kay and Angela, and to Roxanne Lucchesi, professor of advertising in the School of Communication and Journalism. As a result, an expanded collaborative vision of the “Rich Normality Design Collaborate” (RNDC) emerged, leading to the development of an innovative design experience that engaged faculty and undergraduates from five disciplines—interior design, advertising, early childhood development, entrepreneurial studies, and mechanical engineering.

The overarching goal of this interdisciplinary experience was to help build a pipeline of creative and innovative thinkers. The RNDC team believed that as students developed entrepreneurial mindsets, and gained experience working in cross-disciplinary teams, they would be more fully prepared to be leading professionals within multiple industries.

Currently, the RDNC team guides students through an innovation process following the Stanford design-thinking model, a human-centered approach. Co-founder of Stanford’s George Kemble has visited the SDSU campus two times to work with RNDC faculty. During these visits, Kemble helped the RNDC faculty team strategically develop the initiative for even more impactful student learning experiences and commercialization outcomes. The SDSU RNDC team approach integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technologies and the requirements for business success. Simply, it is designing with, instead of for. In this design process, students create ideas and build products based on client and user interaction, and rapid prototype testing and refinement.

Since its small beginning, RNDC has grown to include six faculty from five academic units. To date, more than 200 students have participated in the program, leading to dozens of product concepts and prototypes; including the “Konnector” product and the resulting patent being celebrated.

About the patent

Design patent number 949,979 was issued on April 26th, 2022, and was the result of an RNDC iteration focused on developing product ideas for intergenerational interaction. The South Dakota Board of Regents is the patent Assignee and RNDC faculty and students, and industry partner KODO Kids, are co-inventors. The patent covers the design of a connection device to promote children’s building skills. The patent document can be accessed in its entirety at