Cal Poly Seniors Create Convertible Picnic Basket

Is it a picnic table or a basket? It is both.

Bailey Snow
June 1, 2021

With summer coming up, picnic season is almost upon us. An innovative team of Cal Poly students has developed a picnic basket that will help outdoor diners up their game—literally. QuickNic, their foldable basket, takes the picnic up off the ground by easily unfolding to a portable table. 

"It reduces your need to have multiple items for carrying and eating on," said team member Henry Marks. He and his teammates in an industrial technology course chose this idea from a list of 200 they were considering, because they decided it was "the most unique, the most fun to make, and would have the most value to users." 

The group developed five or six prototypes as their initial idea evolved. In a normal world, bringing a product like QuickNic to fruition is not an easy task, much less when there is an unprecedented international pandemic. And on top of all this, the group had only 10 weeks (one Cal Poly quarter) to bring QuickNic from an idea into a physical product that they could not only sell, but also produce a somewhat large quantity of.

Industrial Technology and Packaging seniors Julia Rice, Sydney Meertens and Luke Spencer design

“Just learning to understand the stress and expect it so you can deal with it in the best way and not let it overwhelm you has definitely been a big challenge to overcome," said industrial technology senior Austin Nix."In general, with entrepreneurship and startups, you do have to sacrifice some of your personal time and obligations in order to find success."

Making one prototype took the team 14 hours of working late into the night in Marks' garage, Nix said. "But we were ultimately able to figure it out.”

The project has been mostly self-funded by the ten students on the QuickNic team. While they have raised around $2300 via GoFundMe, the students have had to pay around $4,000 out of pocket, and they predict that they will have to purchase more items before QuickNic’s general release.

Another challenge they faced was a strained lumber supply chain, which caused prices to surge during the pandemic. 

"Lumber prices are up about 700%," said team member and industrial technology senior Lucas Spencer. "All the third-party distributors are stockpiling it and trickling it out to raise the price because everyone is doing home improvement projects and construction is at an all-time high." The group had to make numerous calls to various wood distributors to try and secure a discount to try and bring their costs down.

The group would have been normally able to source the wood they needed from their supplier in Paso Robles. But, due to the pandemic, the closest location that had what the group needed was in Oxnard. As a result, they had to drive over two hours each way just to get the wood. 

Once they acquired their raw materials, they faced a new challenge: production facilities. Under normal circumstances, the group would be able to access the Cal Poly Architecture Lab, which has a variety of woodworking tools and machinery that they could use to build their product. However, due to the pandemic, the group had to make their wooden basket/table in the Cal Poly Metals Lab, as the Architecture Lab is currently closed. 

“We had been promised equipment and had that equipment taken away from us, which set us back,” essentially doubling their R&D requirements. So the group ended up creating their own machinery. 

Now in the production phase, they're putting that machinery to good use. "We’re creating fixtures for manufacturing to make sure when we go do each cut or drill a hole, that the process is standardized and repeatable," Nix said.

“[We had to] get creative and figure it out on our own, but that’s what the class is all about," Nix said. "Even through all the stress, it’s been a worthwhile and valuable class experience."

QuickNic is slated for general release on June 3, with a total of 101 units being produced. Those interested in pre-ordering a QuickNic can go to QuickNicTable.com to secure their basket, just in time for the summer.

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