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US Electrification
Open Innovation Challenge
Ergonomic Switch Design Challenge
circuit breaker innovation challengeCongratulations to the Winners of the Ergonomic Switch Design Challenge


GE will introduce a new, innovative molded case circuit breaker portfolio providing advanced safety and reliability in 2015. We’ll do this in half the typical industry development time, because we are adopting radically fresh approaches to product development, including an open innovation design challenge that captures the vision of designers around the globe and beyond the walls of GE.


What is open innovation?

We partnered with NineSigma to connect with the world to find new solutions, knowledge and partners to accelerate our innovation cycle and invite inventors everywhere to help solve an ergonomic rotary handle design challenge for the new circuit breaker. 


Imagine no limits to expertise and resources!  Talent from around the globe focused on delivering a better form, fit and function for our customers. We launched the challenge on April 15, 2014 and published a press release announcing the five winners of $10,000 each for their creative designs on September 30, 2014.


Challenge Launch: April 15   >   Submission Deadline: July 15   >    Winner Announcement: Sept 30




Olaf BarskiOlaf Barski   - Barski Design GmbH
Frankfurt, Hessen, Germany


Proposal: Rotary Handle Shift Lock
Judges Liked: Simple operability combined with aesthetic design that uses modern LED color indication ring.


Olaf studied industrial design at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, founded a design firm in 1992 and since 2010 has been the managing director of Barksi Designs.


For this challenge and for all endeavors his central tenet is simply “people focused design.” Instead of focusing on nature or other disciplines, Olaf and his designers put special emphasis on users. Inspiration comes from analyzing, checking and testing again and again the handling, use and procedure of a function from the beginning to the end. 




Tom Goddu – Blazing Pencils LLCTom Goddu – Blazing Pencils LLC
Pine Meadow, Connecticut, USA


Proposal: Rotary Switch Concept
Judges Liked: Eccentric handle design, with rack and pinion mechanism for torque and LED indicators.


Tom founded Blazing Pencils in late 2001 after working as a senior designer with various toy and consumer product companies including Oregon Scientific, CBS and Fisher Price. 


He heard about the challenge from a mentor, who said she thought it would be ‘right up my alley’. He admits, “I don’t usually participate in design competitions- it’s usually not an equitable exchange- but in this case there were 5 healthy prizes…”  After several weeks of brainstorming, research and sketching, the unique design was inspired by a simple padlock concept that considered the whole life of the switch from easier installation to user monitoring and every day operating. “I’m thrilled to have won one of GE’s generous prizes. As for recommending open innovation to others? Listen to your colleagues and mentors, and if you win, pay it forward.”



Sandy Richardson - Design EdgeSandy Richardson  - Design Edge
Belrose, NSW, Australia


Proposal: Design Edge Response to GE Ergonomic Switch Design
Judges Liked:  Unique stepped-fascia design, detailed submission and end-to-end design capabilities.


Sandy is a trained industrial designer with 30 years of experience.  He and his team at Design Edge, an innovative design consultancy firm founded in Sydney in 1988, are focused on a progressive blend of creative and practical. “We integrate market effective styling with clever engineering to maximize sales appeal and significantly reduce tooling, part and assembly costs.”


A 2014 Sydney Design Award Winner, Design Edge has mastered providing real world product design solutions for markets in Australia and around the globe. For this challenge, the main inspiration was a variation of an angle poise lamp that introduces rotation functionality.  We were able to integrate a contemporary, modern design that also meets the required force calculations and deliver a pragmatic solution.





R Roopnarine – Long Road EnterprisesR Roopnarine – Long Road Enterprises
New York, New York, USA


Proposal: Ergonomic Rotary Handle for General Electric's MCC Circuit Breakers (Rack and Pinion)
Judges Liked: Internal gear mechanism with fewer parts and detailed submission including material selections and force study with calculations.


R Roopnarine has been designing for more than 20 years, and since 2011 has been the president and sole proprietor of Long Road Enterprises. Previously he was a senior R&D engineer at a New York City based robotics and spacecraft mechanisms small business.  He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from City College of New York, summa cum laude.


R Roopnarine was inspired to take this challenge because he enjoys being creative and innovative around difficult problems.  He indicated the functional requirements drove his design concept based on providing the simplest solution.





Giulio Ceppi –  Total Tool
Milan, Italy


Proposal:  Soft Clover
Judges Liked:  Tridimensional texture for improved grip, easy left/right hand operation, aesthetics


Giulio is an architect by education and worked with a talented cross-functional team of product designers, engineers and interior designers for this challenge - a common practice at Total Tool to cultivate creative designs across form, fit and function.
Giulio embraces the contemporary open innovation values of global, full transparency competition.  He was inspired by the “Design for All” criteria which drove the unique left and right hand ergonomic clover design.  He also commented, “The natural metaphor of the clover was also useful to explain that a simple shape, a triaxial handle, could be good for everybody, as the luckiness you expect from the clover itself.”


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