A palm-sized modular toy created by Kelly Harrigan of Manassas, Va., a fourth-year industrial design student in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, has been awarded a design patent, announced Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. (VTIP).

The toy, named Ferra, won first place last year from Swiss Toymaker Naef Spielzeug. Naef asked for game or design objects appropriate for ages 3 to 99, made primarily of wood. There were 107 entries in the company's inaugural toy competition.

Harrigan layered the wooden shapes of her toy with magnets "because people are fascinated by them at any age," she said. "I wanted to design a toy that makes you want to experiment and learn about the capabilities of magnetism." The name, Ferra, came from the type of magnet she used -- a ceramic magnet called ferrite."

She also wanted to create something modular, she said. "The curvy modular design allows for smooth movement between pieces and the opportunity to create several configurations," said Harrigan. "And it feels good in your palm."

It can also be produced with little material waste when laser cut.

Ferra began as an industrial design program class assignment to develop a creative product capable of commercialization. "The pursuit of intellectual property has been one important layer to our curriculum," said Mitzi Vernon, associate professor of industrial design. The program pushes students to look past the design phase of their projects. "We try to encourage the continuation of the work through working prototypes and competitions, which can accelerate patents, commercialization, and licensing," said Vernon.

The toy is available to be licensed for development, said Jackie Reed, licensing associate with VTIP. Contact Reed via e-mail or call (540) 443-9217.

This news release was prepared by VTIP student intern Emily Canis of Great Falls, Va., a communication major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Contact: