Over 60 design professionals and students gathered for an unusual get-to-know-you event on a recent Friday night at the TechShop in downtown San Jose. The group was here for an annual meeting of the Industrial Designers Society of America.

“What architects do for buildings, industrial designers do for products ranging from toothbrushes and cars to chairs and laptops,” said Assistant Professor of Industrial Design Joshua Nelson. “This involves collaborating with engineers and other experts to produce products that will be comfortable, useful and innovative.

Nelson invited his students to attend the event, which was a design swarm that functioned much like the rapid prototyping events that have become popular here in Silicon Valley as a means of brainstorming ways to use innovative, new products.

In this case, six teams, each comprised of professionals and students, were asked to design a homeless shelter for earthquake relief or a portable toilet for emergency scenarios using a new type of fiberboard provided by Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions.

In just a few hours, the teams went from sketches to prototypes, which they shared with the entire group in five-minute pechakucha presentations. What was the best part for Professor Nelson? Watching the pros and students bond over doing what they love.

“The interaction that occurs while attempting to creatively solve problems is very deep and meaningful,” Nelson said. The professionals  “really get to know how our students work and become interested in hiring them or referring them to a friend. At the end of the event, all kinds of business cards were being shared.”

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