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Piro and Capstone Team Bring Fun and Games to Keene State


Who said Keene State has to be all about work? Some fun and games can also be part of the college experience, and Nick Piro, a senior from Norwalk, CT, has found a way to combine the two.

For his senior capstone course, Piro and his team are currently working on a project that combines two popular lawn games—Cornhole, in which players take turns trying to toss bags of corn through a hole in a board, and KanJam, a game played with a flying disc and two large buckets. “Why not have one product that allows you to play either of these two very popular games?” reasoned Piro.

Piro has some experience with combining two things. After receiving his degree last May in management, the enterprising entrepreneur decided to stay an extra semester at KSC to earn a BA in Sustainable Product Design and Innovation (SPDI). Piro had added SPDI as a minor in the middle of his sophomore year after hearing about the popular program from his roommates. “It looked like a lot of fun—a lot of hands-on work that I’ve loved to do since I was a kid,” he said. “I figured if I have a business background and know how to make products, I can have my own business someday.”

Growing up in Norwalk, Piro mixed his passion for sports with his love for building and assembling things, joining his family to build a skate park in the backyard. Piro was encouraged to look at Keene State by his older brother, Frank, who frequently came up to the campus to visit friends. “I was hooked the first week,” he said. “I made so many friends—a lot of unique people who were very down to earth.”

Piro also has an engaging personality that serves him well in and out of class. “Nick seems very casual, but he’s on top of things and maintains clear communications with me as his instructor,” said Mark Arends, an assistant professor in the SPDI program who has worked with Piro and his group on the project. “He also has a quiet sense of humor, which makes him rather personable.”

Piro, who is serving as marketing manager on the project, says that once the group members have refined a prototype, they will make about 50 copies and try to sell them. Drawing from his advertising and promotion classes, he’s created a survey and a marketing plan and hopes to set up demonstrations on the quad and at the Student Center. Piro feels the combined game has broad appeal. “Most people we surveyed knew the games we’re talking about and seemed pretty excited about it,” he said.

While Piro and his group aren’t quite ready to go on “Shark Tank,” they have looked into patenting their game combo. Piro said he’s learned a lot from the project, which has involved implementing multiple phases in order to arrive at the final product. “I really think it’s a great hands-on experience, because that’s how it’s done in the real world,” he said.

Piro, who already has had a taste of the real world after doing a summer internship with Bern Unlimited, a Kingston, MA, company that makes protective gear for sports like cycling, skateboarding, and skiing, said he’d like to land a job with Burton Snowboards of Burlington, VT. “They’re involved with everything to do with snowboarding, so it’s right up my alley,” he said.

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