Growing up in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Abby Chidlow was exposed to outdoor activities for most of her life. Located just an hour and a half away from Ohiopyle (the state park that Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water is located), Abby and her family would often go rafting and biking around the area. Abby joined the Virginia Tech industrial design program with the intention of exploring assistive design but quickly discovered a passion for designing for the outdoors. Her interest translated into joining the White Water Rafting Club (and becoming President of the Whitewater Club), partaking in an industrial design independent study, creating paddles with John Rugh, one of our woodshop supervisors, and collaborating with Immersion Research to work on new products for kayaks.
After graduating from Virginia Tech’s industrial design program, she hopes to create products that encourage and share appreciation for nature. Abby uses her own paddles she’s created regularly and has even begun receiving interest for paddles from her friends as well. Since her independent study ended last year, she is working on dual blade kayak paddles. Despite the process being lengthy and detail oriented, creating paddles has become an engaging process for Abby to develop shop skills and a deeper understanding of wood as a material. According to her, the greatest challenges are understanding the weight distribution and shaping the paddle.
Abby highly recommends participating in independent studies to improve time management skills and explore potential interests. Through working consistently in the shops, Abby takes advantage of her time in school to pursue outdoor design through personal projects, independent studies, and customizing studio projects to fit her passion.