Process Blog: Device Prototype

Summary: What did I do?

By using the prototyping system “littleBits,” I built an low-fidelity device prototype for my user group, Seattleites who love azaleas. The device prototype is called “Temperature Control.” My user group love azaleas and want to take care of them. However, there are many elements that azaleas owners have to consider, such as limited temperature range. Thus, I built a “Temperature Control” device prototype that should be placed close to the azaleas. One function of “Temperature Control ” is to warn the plant owner when the temperature is under 25 Fahrenheit with a buzzer. It also can automatically turn on its fan to cool off when the temperature is higher than 86 Fahrenheit.

Here is a video that I made to explain the whole design process:

This is the device prototype that I built with a flow chart.

First Exposure to “littleBit” kit to generate “Temperature Control”:

First, I got familiar with all the pieces in the kit and learned how to use each piece. The kit included power, inputs, outputs, and wires. One significant lesson that I learned is the order I chose to put the pieces together will affect the output because electricity flows forward.

Major Step: Connecting my two inputs to temperature sensor by using a “split”.

With a “split,” I was able to connect two inputs to the temperature sensor so that the “Temperature Control” could have two different reactions depending on the temperature. If it was under 25 Fahrenheit, it would begin to buzz, while the fan would automatically turn on if the temperature went above 86 Fahrenheit.

What went well?

The pieces in the “littleBits” are very easy to understand and use. Furthermore, all the pieces are color coded- blue is power, pink is input, green is output, and orange is wire — so it is very easy for the builder to find the pieces that she or he wants.

Why did I do it?

My users are Seattleites who loves azaleas. However, Seattle’s weather makes taking care of azaleas harder due to frequent temperature fluctuations. Furthermore, there are many limitations or concerns about taking care of azaleas. Azaleas require temperature between 25 Fahrenheit to 86 Fahrenheit, need sunlight, moist, but not overwatered soil, etc. Thus, I decided to help azaleas lovers have an easier time taking care of azaleas. Since one of the main factors of growing azaleas is the temperature range, I decided to build a device prototype called “Temperature Control” that through buzzing and automatic fans will help the owner be more aware of the extreme temperatures without needing to check the thermometer all the time.

If the temperature is higher than 86 Fahrenheit, then the buzzer will signal the keeper to move the plant to somewhere warmer and if the temperature is colder than 25 Fahrenheit, then the fan will automatically turn on to cool off.

How did I do it?

I used “littleBits” prototyping system to build “Temperature Control.” I used 1 power, 3 inputs(temperature sensor, button switch, roller switch), 1 split and 2 outputs(buzzer, fan) to build “Temperature Control”. First I connected the power to a temperature sensor, which supplies the output with electricity. Then, by using “splits,” I was able to connect 2 inputs to the temperature sensor- a button switch which connects to a fan and a roller switch that connects to a buzzer and will buzz when the temperature is too low.

Reflection: Problem Aroused and Possible Future Action:

The problem that I encountered is the temperature sensor is too simple, the kit is not able to perform the functions that I hoped for. For example, it cannot set the parameter that more than 86 Fahrenheit, the temperature sensor will be able to signal to the next output. If I had more time and a more sophisticated kit, I would set 2 parameters for the temperature sensor, one lower than 25 Fahrenheit and the other for temperatures higher than 86 Fahrenheit. If the temperature is lower than 25 Fahrenheit, the sensor will signal the output, in this case the buzzer, and if temperature is higher than 86 Fahrenheit, the sensor will signal the output, the fan.

Furthermore to address the desirability of my device, I will change the buzzer into a music player. I believe that the buzzer may be too noisy while the music player will be able to produce the same effect of getting the plant keeper’s attention without making too much distress.

Wildcard: What do you learn at the end of the device prototype?

I learned that device prototype is easy. All that is required is a power, several inputs and outputs and you can build a low-fidelity device prototype. However, the main question is “How desirable is the prototype? Is it Feasible? Usable?” For example, in my “Temperature Control” case, the prototype is less desirable because the buzzer will cause distress for the owner when the temperature is beyond 86 Fahrenheit. Thus, I conclude that one has to think in many facets in order to be a satisfied product.

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