Sprint 6: Device Prototyping
Making A Device Prototype To Solve A Problem
The goal for this week was to design a prototype to solve a specific user needs. We were given an opportunity to mess around with LittleBits, an easy to use yet very effective blocks of machinery, to create different devices. After choosing the user and the scenario that we wanted to work on, my group mate and I decided to make a device that reminds children who just learned how to cook to turn off the fire. In order to make an effective device, we first brainstorming different approaches and designs by coming up with 3 possible solutions. The first one was basically an alarm with a temperature sensor and a timer that measures the temperature of the area and if it stays high for a certain amount of time, then the device will start playing music to remind children to turn off the fire. The 2nd idea was something similar but instead of a music box, we have it a buzzer instead to get children attention faster. The third idea was based on having a timer and temperature sensor, but this time we have a motor that automatically turns off the fire for the children.
After comparing the designs, we decided to go with the first two ideas than the third one because it’s better to make children turn off the fire themselves to make it become a good habit. Then we picked the first idea as our final design choice because we thought that reminding children with songs is more effective than a buzzer because songs will be more appealing to kids. We then built our prototype, made a video showcasing the device and I’m reporting on it to get further feedback in order to improve on it even further.
I love this project simply because of how applicable it is. Getting to use and build an actual working prototype was really interesting. Since the fidelity is pretty low and the pieces are simple, it lets me focus on the foundation and the problem at hand instead of other details like the device itself and how to make it fancy. Device prototyping allows me to focus on the users and their needs instead of other smaller details that might detract me from the ultimate goal in mind.
Through working on this project, it shows how useful prototyping really is. When we first built in, we didn’t have a timer for the device and so whenever the device reaches a certain temperature it starts to play music automatically, which wasn’t intended. The point of this device is to remind children to turn off the fire after a certain amount of time passed. Since this prototype is a low fidelity one, we could easily fix it by just putting one more piece. Through building the first prototype, we were able to evaluate and think about the users and the goal we have in mind to evaluate. By improving on our prototype, we were able to improve the usability and desirability of the device. Without a prototype, it would have been a costly mistake to build an actual model and then have to fix it later. Prototype enables us to make mistakes and learn from it, without great consequences.
Given just how useful it is to build a prototype first before making an actual product, I can see myself applying this process to various other projects. For example, if I want to make an app I could first create a paper prototype and get some feedback first. This will allow me to get feedback on the design and ideas rather quickly. Without prototyping, trying to fix a mistake when I commit time and effort into making an actual app would be way more costly. For example, if I forgot to make a backspace for my app I could easily notice it when I run over the paper prototype and then quickly fix it. I could also use this process to make various tools such as making an alarm to remind users to do various events throughout the day by playing certain songs. I could first try out different models with LittleBits, get feedback and evaluate the design, then go back and improve on the design to save crucial time and effort.
I see this process as being useful for everything because it’s better to make a mistake on prototype than on actual products. A prototype to design and engineering is like a rough draft to English essays, both are necessities.